Chinese Factories Now Compete to Woo Laborers

The New York Times reports on the rising demands of Chinese workers:

In recent months, as the country’s export-driven juggernaut has been revived and many migrants have found jobs closer to home, the balance of power in places like Zhongshan has shifted, forcing employers to compete for new workers — and to prevent seasoned ones from defecting to sweeter prospects.

The shortage has emboldened workers and inspired a spate of in and around Zhongshan that paralyzed Honda’s Chinese operations last month. The unrest then spread to the northern city of Tianjin, where strikers briefly paralyzed production at a Toyota car plant and a Japanese-owned electronics factory.

Although the walkouts were quelled with higher salaries, factory owners and labor experts said that the strikes have driven home a looming reality that had been predicted by demographers: the supply of workers 16 to 24 years old has peaked and will drop by a third in the next 12 years, thanks to stringent family-planning policies that have sharply reduced China’s population growth.

In Zhongshan, many factories are operating with vacancies of 15 to 20 percent, compelling some bosses to cruise the streets in their BMWs and Mercedeses in a desperate hiring quest during crunch time.

The other new reality, perhaps harder to quantify, is this: young Chinese factory workers, raised in a country with rapidly rising expectations, are less willing to toil for long hours for appallingly low wages like dutiful automatons.

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