0410 GMT September 22, 2019
China’s factories were the backbone of the country’s economic resurgence in the last four decades.
But as the Chinese economy slows and the nation seeks to move away from the production line, more and more China’s young migrant workers are ditching the factories to find easier jobs with ‘more freedom’ in the growing services sector, inkstonenews.com reported.
One of them, Li Tao, who earns a living as a food courier in Guangzhou, said working in China’s massive courier business was a better option than factory work.
“We can earn between ¥5,000 ($730) and ¥7,000 ($1,020) a month as couriers but we have more freedom than if we were working as a security guard or in a factory,” said Li, who is from a rural part of China.
That is about the same as many make in the factories, but with a much more flexible workday that appeals to younger workers.
“We can play online games and chat during our break — that’s impossible for workers at factories, which are usually located in industrial parks,” Li said.
“Many people who are now working as couriers once worked in factories — including me.”
The courier business — for food or packages — is a popular choice for good reason. Across China, 50 billion deliveries were made in 2018 — up by about 24 percent from a year earlier.
One of the biggest on-demand delivery service providers, Meituan Dianping, had more than 2.7 million people on its books as couriers in 2018, working either full-time or part-time, the company said.
Liu Kaiming, the head of the Shenzhen-based Institute of Contemporary Observation — which monitors working conditions in hundreds of Chinese contract manufacturers — said the services sector had ballooned since the 2000s and had absorbed a large number of laid-off factory workers.
But now that shift has left the factories hurting.
Factory bosses in the Pearl and Yangtze River deltas — the country’s traditional manufacturing heartlands — said they are short of workers but cannot meet their salary expectations.
The Labor Department in Dongguan, China’s southern Guangdong Province, said some 800 factories in the southern city expected to be short of about 100,000 staff in the period after the Lunar New Year holiday.
Even by boosting pay, manufacturers are finding it difficult to attract workers.
Garment factories in the southern city of Guangzhou said they were offering ¥7,000 ($1,020) a month with free accommodation yet they still could not get enough skilled pattern cutters, according to Southern Metropolis News.
The situation has not gone unnoticed by the authorities.
Across three provinces, authorities have announced plans to hold more than 4,000 recruitment fairs in February and March to try to get more workers into factories.
* He Huifeng is a contributor to Inkstone. She is an award-winning journalist with a focus on China’s political, economic and social issues.