Pearl River Delta Suffers Migrant Worker Shortage, The Guangdong Government Has Only Itself to Blame – Pan Xiaotao

Below is a partial translation of an article written by Pan Xiaotao(潘小涛), a political commentator from Hong Kong, on Asia Times Online

After the Chinese New Year, China’s Pearl River Delta area will suffer a “migrant worker shortage” again. Factories in the area will not be able to recruit enough ideal workers, and the situation will be worse than in past years. Migrant workers are leaving the Pearl River Delta because wages are not attractive enough. But more importantly, after several years of rapid development, the government hasn’t invested necessary resources to improve the working conditions, and hasn’t released measures banning discrimination of . Those situations have been damaging the area’s appeal. The Guangdong government has only itself to blame for the migrant worker shortage.

In the early development of the Pearl River Delta, the area benefited from the adjacency to Hong Kong and Macau. It could easily obtain capital, market, and technology from abroad. Also supported by the privileged policies from the central government, the area enjoyed a stunning economic boom. Clouded by pride, the Guangdong government hasn’t made any effort to learn from the modernized administrative experience in Hong Kong, not to mention converting the government to a service-oriented one. The officials also lack an international orientation. The environment has been devastated, land has been misused, and talents have not been protected. The sustainable development of Guangdong is in danger.

Sun Zhigang, a college graduate from Hubei Province who worked in Guangzhou, was arrested in the city because he didn’t carry a temporary residence permit. Sun was beaten to death in the “custody and repatriation” center. The report about the event by Southern Metropolitan Daily provoked a national outcry, and Premier Wen Jiabao ordered the abolishment of the custody and repatriation policy. But the Guangdong government didn’t undertake any self-reflection. After the report, several high-level editors at Southern Metropolitan Daily were sacked, an event widely considered as revenge from the Guangdong government.

A Hong Kong-invested battery factory in Huizhou city, Guangdong province, disregarded workers’ safety for years. The workers assimilated a large amount of cadmium. A large number of the workers were poisoned by the metallic element, and the female workers’ babies were born grey. The workers’ complaints to the labor administration ended up with no support. Furthermore, the government tolerated the factory owner relentlessly falsifying the workers’ health records and physical examination reports, which made the workers’ appeals much more difficult.



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