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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Wanted: one million wage labourers

A couple of new articles on labour and labour struggles in China. One from AP provides a good overview of the current situation and gives a good sense of the full throttle capitalist exploitation taking place in the Pearl River delta region. Apparently there were 5 million migrant workers in the Guangdong region in 1995 whereas now there are something like 30 million. In earlier posts I've linked to some good articles about the rising unrest in the area as workers' struggles begin to take on a more militant tone.

But a major contradiction is also raising its head within the economy of southern China: a huge labour shortage resulting from an increase in rural incomes on the one hand and over-exploitation in the factories of Guangdong on the other. There is no longer the same motivation for immigrant workers to flood in and accept whatever conditions they have to. The manufacturing boom in southern China, which means that European and US shops are stuffed full of £30 DVD players, is based on paying workers incredibly low wages. But this is clearly not sustainable:

A sample survey on migrant workers in the province's Pearl River Delta, conducted by the provincial statistics bureau, showed that the labor shortage had been been getting worse since it first appeared in 2004, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Since the first half of last year, about 72.9 percent of companies questioned had difficulties recruiting workers.

``If a company can provide a monthly salary of 1,000 yuan [HK$943] or above, it will not have difficulty in recruiting workers,'' the report quoted Fang Chaogui, director of the provincial labor and social security department, as saying. The average monthly salary for a migrant worker in Guangdong is 500-1,000 yuan, it said.


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