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Demand heating up for migrant workers

By Zhang Li,Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-20 06:16
Demand heating up for migrant workers

Benefits unimaginable to earlier generations becoming necessary incentives

"Spacious rooms with air conditioner, Wi-Fi and hot shower 24 hours a day."

They are selling points you might read in an apartment rental ad. But, instead, this was part of a recruitment poster for migrant workers at a job fair this month in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Posters at other booths promised free meals, apartments for couples and the guarantee of a place at a school for any children, in addition to a competitive salary and healthcare.

The use of such incentives has become the norm at job fairs, as employers struggle to attract workers amid a tighter labor shortage.

In terms of recruitment, "many large private enterprises are now behaving like State-owned enterprises in the 1950s and '60s", said Gan Mantang, a sociology professor at Fuzhou University in Fujian province. "They're offering good, free accommodation and help with their children's education, as well as providing some recreational activities.

"If they don't do this, it'll be difficult to recruit anyone in today's ultracompetitive labor market," added Gan, the author of Migrant Workers Are Changing China.

Only five years ago, many migrant workers endured cramped, often unhygienic dormitories, and long periods away from their families.

The job fair in Nanning on Feb 7 attracted 550 companies looking for 100,000 workers.

One booth was for Antoni International, a cotton processor in Foshan, Guangdong province.

Lu Jieling, head of its workers union, said 80 percent of its employees are migrant workers. Many had quit before Spring Festival, so workers were needed quickly.

Antoni was offering 4,000 to 8,000 yuan ($583 to $1,167) a month, 20-square-meter studio apartments for couples, and help with school admissions. The only requirements were that workers needed to be 18 to 45 years old, healthy and have "no bad addiction".

Lu said former employees had been promised a 1,500 yuan bonus if they returned to work after Spring Festival.

The challenges facing employers largely stem from the fact younger migrant workers are more demanding than previous generations. While a decent salary was once all that mattered, now quality of life counts.

"The shortage is of high-quality young people with a relatively good education," said Li Guoxiang, a researcher with the China Academy of Social Sciences, who added that companies realize it has become more economical to retain employees than to train new recruits every year.

Large cities in eastern China are still the preferred option for young migrant workers because of higher salaries there, with many now moving with their families. Li said, the movement of factories to less developed areas and poverty relief efforts are attracting older workers who want to return home.

Tianrui Electronics, which makes electronic components and instruments in Tianmen, Hubei province, is struggling to find workers under age 35 with good eyesight.

Shi Yanjun, a company manager, has attended two big job fairs this year, including one held in a township. Just 20 people showed an interest, he said, and "very few young people visited either job fair".

Zhou Lihua contributed to this story.

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