Shenzhen job hunters unfazed by economic downturn

Despite a sharp fall in the number of job openings in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, migrant workers are still showing up at the city’s job fairs confident of finding employment in a city where there is a significant under-supply of labour.

At a regular job fair in Futian district last week, young job seekers were queuing up to send their resumes to recruiters. A job hunter from Shaanxi said he was sure he could find a job as security guard, with a salary of 2,000-3,000 yuan per month. He had previously worked as a security officer and driver in Shenzhen before returning to his home town a few years ago.

The job market has to some extent reflected the slowdown in business activity in Shenzhen. According to the latest job statistics from the Luohu Job Fair, recruiters cut the number of job openings by 100,000 in December to just 40,000, while the number of job seekers fell 20,000 from November to 13,670.

In the fourth quarter 2011, only 310 manufacturing companies were hiring compared to 407 in the same period in 2010. Home appliances, finance and information technology were the top three hirers but even these sectors saw job cuts as well.

Despite all of the above, it is still jobs that need migrant workers, rather than the reverse. A construction company owner complained that it was always difficult to find hard-working migrant workers, especially as the Spring Festival approaches.

Workers at large-scale factories and small family workshops alike do not seem particularly worried about their job prospects. A worker from Yunnan, who is now at a Taiwanese shoe factory, said even if his factory goes bankrupt or moves inland, he can still find work in the neighborhood. His factory recently saw over 7,000 workers protesting reduced overtime hours, a major source of factory workers’ monthly income.

A report from the Guangdong small and medium-sized enterprises association claimed that nearly 10,000 businesses went bankrupt in the first three quarters of 2010. And the Party secretary of Guangdong, Wang Yang, has stated publicly that the government won’t rescue firms that are technologically backward or are heavy polluters.

“In the long run, Guangdong won’t appeal to either factory bosses or low-end labourers,” said a senior government consultant at a Shenzhen-based think tank. “Inland provinces like Sichuan exude more appeal to foreign bosses with their increasingly mature infrastructure, favorable investment policies and relatively low labour costs. Workers won’t stay here long either, as they face higher living costs as opposed to a relatively high salary.”

But it might be different for workers who are content with their current position. A Henan worker who had been working for the same boss in Dongguan for over seven years said his boss would always pick him up at the train station when he returned from the Spring Festival each year, and would not let him work too much for the sake of his health.
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