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Workers call job and wage shots
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-02-24 02:54

Decently dressed, 21-year-old Cao Degao had an air of confidence as he sauntered around a job fair organized by the Guangzhou Labour Market Service Centre.

And far from being hungry for any job on offer, Cao, who has worked in Foshan, a city in Guangdong, as an electrician for a private enterprise for two years, was choosy. He was expecting to land a better-paid job in Guangzhou, the provincial capital of Guangdong.

"Several companies are looking for experienced electricians, and I've submitted my resume to three of them," he told China Daily.

His confidence of promising career prospects is based on the professional training he has received, his work experience, and the increasing demand for skilled workers in the province, and the Pearl River Delta region in particular.

Cao benefited from three-years professional training in his hometown in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and his present monthly income stands at 1,100 yuan (US$133). He expects any new job to provide him with a minimum monthly salary of 1,600 yuan (US$192).

He says many from his town working in the Delta cities like him, recognize their wage-bargaining position is better, owing to increasing labour shortages.

Local media report no more than one million migrant workers arrived in Guangzhou by train in the first week following the Spring Festival. Most migrant workers headed for their hometowns ahead of the holiday and were expected to return around the first and second weeks following the festival. This year, the number of those who have so far come back is down 7.6 per cent on the same period last year.

The decrease in their numbers in Guangzhou is noticeable, said Wu Qikai, deputy director of Guangzhou Labour Market Service Centre.

"The first week after the Spring Festival is generally the peak period for migrant workers to flow here and it is the first time that the local authorities have lifted the old ban on new staff recruitment," Wu said.

Under the old 1995 decree, in order to curb a flood of excess migrant workers into the city in the month following the Spring Festival, companies in Guangzhou were prohibited from recruiting migrant workers from outside the province; those already employed were not allowed to bring new workers back; employment agencies were prohibited from introducing migrants from other provinces into Guangzhou, while job fairs barred job seekers from outside the province. Recruitment advertising was also banned.

And unlike previous few years, most job seekers at the service centre are better dressed and with no luggage on them. "That means they are not new arrivals," he said.

Based on the outcome of the job fairs organized by the service centre in the past couple of days, the deputy director concluded labour-intensive companies have been hardest hit in terms of recruiting enough workers for low-paid positions, while well-paid vacancies are drawing queues of job seekers.

A typical example Wu cited was a restaurant that offered a monthly salary of 600 yuan (US$72) and free board and lodging, but received no applicants at job fairs last weekend. Whereas, more than 50 would-be employees queued to submit their resumes to an electronics company looking to fill a position offering a monthly salary of 2,500 yuan (US$301).

Exchanging labour

But, Xing Yibo, deputy director of the Guangzhou Labour and Social Security Bureau, is of the opinion that labour shortages in the city are not as serious as they may appear at face value.

While acknowledging the drop in the inflow of migrant workers, the official said the municipal labour and social security bureau has been working very closely with their counterparts in what they claim to be the greater Pearl River Delta region including Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, Fujian, Sichuan, Jiangxi, Hainan, to recruit and organize migrant workers for the Guangzhou market and to rationalize the post-festival flow of them.

Many more migrant labourers have arrived in the last few days and another peak period of arrivals is expected soon after the Lantern Festival, which traditionally marks the end of the Spring Festival, and fell yesterday this year, said Xing.

If the shortage of unskilled and semi-skilled workers should worsen, the bureau will extend job fairs to other parts of the greater Pearl River Delta region, he added.

It has been reported Guangzhou has some 100,000 positions which need filling. And other Pearl River Delta cities in the province need around 2 million workers to meet the demands of enterprise.

Dongguan, dubbed "one of the world's manufacturing plants," is said to be suffering most seriously from the migrant worker shortage, because most companies there are labour-intensive.

Also in short supply and big demand are childminders and house maids in all the province's cities.

Of the 23 childminders recruited by one specialist centre attached to Guangzhou Women's Federation, the 21 found jobs the very day they arrived in Guangzhou at the start of this week.

An executive with the child minding service centre, Liang Xiaomei said the shortage of staff to fill such posts in Guangzhou will hopefully ease over the next couple of weeks.

A growing number of domestic workers are expected to return after the Lantern Festival when train tickets are more easily and cheaply available.

A general rise in salaries in Guangzhou will be another plus to lure them back, she said.

Most childminding service centres in the city have raised the minimum monthly salary to 500 yuan (US$60) from 400 yuan (US$48), Liang added.

(China Daily 02/24/2005 page5)

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