Companies in the Pearl River Delta region, one of the world's largest manufacturing bases, are facing a serious shortage of migrant workers after the Spring Festival.
"Many companies have increased salaries in an attempt to attract more workers after the holiday," said Xu Qin, a manager with Shenzhen-based Sanhe human resource center.
At the Guangzhou Railway Station yesterday, 32-year-old Zhang Minggui was waiting for his friend to pick him up and take him to Dongguan, a major manufacturing city in the Delta region.
"My friend said companies in Dongguan are looking for new workers. I'll give it a try. But if salaries aren't good enough I'll go back home," Zhang said.
In Dongguan, some 150,000 extra workers are needed after the Spring Festival, according to Huang Huiping, an official with the Dongguan labor and social security bureau.
Sources with the bureau said there were two jobs in the city for every worker in December.
The processing industries are facing up to 80 percent job vacancies, Huang said.
"It is because many factories have opened more production lines following increased overseas orders," Huang said.
Zhongshan, a Pearl River Delta city and a center of home appliance manufacturing, is also facing a shortage of 130,000 workers after the festival, said Zhang Yousheng, assistant general manager of Gaowei Electrics Group.
"Workers' salaries will increase by 30 percent this year. But we still find it hard to employ qualified workers," Zhang said.
"We need more workers in the processing lines as our orders have increased," Zhang said.
Li Jing, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, attributed the shortage of workers in the Delta region to lower pay.
"Companies in the central and western regions are offering the same salaries as the Delta region," Li was quoted as saying by China Radio International.
"Migrant workers have more job choices in central and western regions, boosted by the central government's 4-trillion-yuan ($590 billion) stimulus plan last year to prop up infrastructure construction. The massive construction of roads, airports and railways attracts a large number of laborers," Li said.
A recent survey by the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily said more than 20 percent of migrant workers in Dongguan would not return to work after the Spring Festival because of relatively low salaries.
About 95 migrant workers, aged between 18 and 40, were interviewed for the survey conducted early last month.
The survey said unsound employment conditions, including the common practice of delayed payment, are some of the major reasons for the worker shortage in Dongguan.
The minimum salary of workers in Dongguan is set at 1,000 yuan per month. But up to 70 percent of migrant workers in the survey said it should be 1,500 to 2,000 yuan per month.
But Liang Guiquan, a researcher with the Guangdong provincial situation study and research center, said the worker shortage may help speed up industrial upgrading in the Delta.
"For many years, companies in the Delta have relied heavily on intensive labor manufacturing. The labor shortage may help them become more high-tech," Liang told China Daily.