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Xmas orders bring labor shortages in China export hubs
Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:49pm EDT
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By James Pomfret
DONGGUAN, China (Reuters) - After a crisis that sparked mass layoffs in China's export hubs, factories in manufacturing heartlands such as the Pearl River Delta are on the hunt for migrant workers again as orders revive for Christmas.
In recent visits to three Pearl River Delta towns, a fragmented though consistent picture of labor shortages has emerged, with big job recruitment centers such as CHTONE in Changan experiencing a surge in activity.
"We're seeing more of that now," said Zhang Mingming, a bespectacled young manager at the job center where a large red banner over the main entrance advertised 400 new jobs at an electronics factory.
Only a few months ago, such factories were laying off staff by the thousands and a mass reverse migration was taking place as millions of out-of-work workers streamed back to their villages in rural China to wait for the economy to pick up.
Now, with factories in China's Pearl River Delta ratcheting up production to meet Christmas orders for everything from Barbie dolls to iPhones, Plasma TV's and designer jeans, workers are in high demand in a region that produces around one third of China's total exports.
Yet finding those workers is another thing entirely as many of the millions of migrant workers who returned home have stayed there, unwilling to make a rash return to the fickle job market in China's "world factory," as the Pearl River Delta is known.
"For every ten people we look for, we can only find two or three," said Huang Zhilian, a manager at Vmart electronics, a firm that exports calculators, watches and DVD players to emerging markets such as Romania and Pakistan.
Slumped behind a recruitment booth at a job center in Shenzhen's Longgang town, Huang said he'd only managed to hire six people in the past three days.
"We come here every day now, there's no choice," said Huang.
Jobs have become more plentiful and better paid in China's interior thanks to Beijing's 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package which included major spending in underdeveloped parts of the country so the country's job market would be less dependent on export hubs.
It's not just the Pearl River Delta that is scrambling to find workers. Other industrial belts are also facing labor shortages such as Zhejiang, in the eastern Yangtze River Delta, where state media says there is a shortage of 250,000 workers.
"We've had millions of pieces of reorders in the last two months. (In the) last two years there was nothing," Bruce Rockowitz, the president of export powerhouse Li & Fung that sources consumer goods extensively for the likes of Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, told Reuters.
The demand for workers is putting upward pressure on wages, potentially eating into the already wafer-thin factory margins.
"Wages had come way down and now they're starting to inch up again because a lot of the labor had migrated away," he added.
LABOR MARKET CONSOLIDATES Continued...
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