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Migrants struggle to find work
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Migrant workers toil away at a construction site in Pudong New Area's Lujiazui area. Many face unemployment as demand for labor falls across the city. 

Walking out of Shanghai Railway Station with his wife and two kids on Saturday after celebrating the Spring Festival in Anhui Province, Wang Jigang didn't waste any time but went straight to a phone and called a friend who had promised him and his wife jobs in the city. Minutes later, they discovered they would have to search for jobs by themselves, as his friend said the two posts had been axed.

"I don't have a clue now where to look for jobs," said Wang.

Wang is among millions of migrant workers in Shanghai who have become victims of the worsening economy, as the demand for labor falls across the city.

A job fair for migrant job seekers held in a job agency near Shanghai Railway Station on Saturday helped about 30 people find employment, but the number was much less than in previous years, said Zhang Liying, director of the agency.

"Companies don't need as many workers as last year," Zhang said. "We've seen the largest drops in electronics, manufacturing, foreign trade, paper and advertising companies. Electronics enterprises used to be one of our largest clients."

In suburban Shanghai, some export-oriented factories have closed down or suspended operations. In Qingpu District, about 21,100 migrant workers were laid off or told to stay home last year, when hundreds of companies in the textile, clothing and machinery sectors and the chemical industry shut down, closed temporarily or saw their orders fall, according to the Qingpu Federation of Trade Unions. About 80 percent of the job cuts hit migrant workers.

Low status jobs

One sector in short supply of workers is the service industry. However, Zhang says many migrant workers refuse to take this kind of work.

"Lots of migrant workers come in here and say 'I want to work in a factory.' They tend to think working in the service industry is unacceptable," Zhang said.

"I can take a factory job, but any other posts lower in status are unacceptable," an Anhui native at Saturday's job fair surnamed Yang told Shanghai Daily.

"Many service industry companies have vacancies," Zhang said. "People need security guards. They find it difficult to find qualified applicants. Lots of migrant workers think the pay is too low."

Zhang encouraged her agents to work hard to make posts in the service industry attractive enough to retain migrant workers.

Well-paid technicians of various kinds are in demand. But most migrant workers are unsatisfied that payment during the apprenticeship period is as low as 800 yuan (US$117), Zhang said.

Experienced mechanics can make 2,500 yuan a month. Machinery engineers can make 5,000 yuan a month. These posts often come with free food and accommodation. "But it's really rare to see a migrant job-seeker who can see in the long term," Zhang said.

Many migrant job-seekers say they have been ripped off by unscrupulous job agencies.

Minhang District's human resources and social security authority busted 35 fake job agencies last week.

It said they charged up to 1,300 yuan for promising to find positions such as 2010 World Expo security guards for migrants, but took the money and gave nothing in return.

(Shanghai Daily February 16, 2009)

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