Manufacturing hub faces huge labor shortages

By Qi Xijia and Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/16 20:48:40

A worker at a factory in Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province, produces a molding machine screw on Thursday. Currently, many enterprises and factories nationwide have resumed production, while carefully ensuring containment of the CODIV-19 spreading. Photo: cnsphoto

Some parts of China are facing shortages of labor even though factories and local governments are trying their best to resume production amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.

In manufacturing hubs like East China's Zhejiang Province, factory workers are often non-locals who can't return to their jobs promptly, because of city lockdowns in Hubei and suspended transportation because of the virus.

"Around 70 percent of our employees can't travel back to our factory because of traffic shutdown and suspended airlines," said Zhang Dengrong, a spokesperson from a clothing export company located in Yiwu, a city in Zhejiang known as the world's small commodity hub. 

Of the company's 1,000-some employees, only about 170 have made it back to their posts, Zhang told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Zhang Jiying, who owns an umbrella factory in Shangyu, in Zhejiang's Shaoxing city, also said that some of her employees had recently come to Shangyu by train but were not allowed to leave the station. As a result, they had to travel back to where they came from. 

This situation is causing a headache for many manufacturers. Some, like Zhang Jiying, find it impossible to start production. Others have resumed production but find it very hard to get back to full operation. 

"For us, the biggest challenge is the lack of frontline workers. If we don't find enough assembly workers in a month it would affect our production as new orders mount," said Li Ruiqiu, a recruiting staff at Easy Open Lid Industry Corp. 

The Yiwu-based easy-open equipment manufacturer has put out an urgent employment advertisement to recruit new workers, after about 50 of its employees were confined in their villages as a result of the virus prevention measures. 

"It's routine for us to recruit new frontline workers this time of year due to the high turnover after the Chinese Spring Festival break, but this year we are worse off because of the disease," Li told the Global Times. Li said that her company wants to hire 100 assembly workers, but has received only five applications so far. 

Zhang Dengrong's company is also looking for a host of skills from doorkeepers to quality inspection staff. For some posts, like packaging workers, the company tends to hire temporary laborers, particularly those who didn't travel out of Yiwu during the Spring Festival holidays. 

Some companies are rewarding back-to-work employees with money. Apple's supplier Foxconn, for example, said it will give 3,000 yuan ($429) per person for employees who return to work on time in Central China's Henan Province. 

To solve the labor shortage, Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang, has come up with measures such as running special trains to transport employees directly from Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Guizhou Province, the two largest sources of labor for companies in Zhejiang. 

"Such measures could help to ease the worry of employees and offer a fast track to companies in need of workers," Chen Shida, head of the Zhejiang Academy of Work Security, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

He forecast that the shortage of labor would ease by early March in Zhejiang. 

Posted in: ECONOMY

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