Harbin is suffering severe industrial labor shortages, according to a report released by the city's Labor and Employment Bureau.
Statistics for the second quarter of this year reveal that certain industries, including services and construction, are all facing problems with worker numbers.
These sectors account for more than half of the Harbin's total labor demand, with an estimated 50,000 laborers required on construction sites and in restaurants, according to the report.
"It is a strange phenomenon," Men Xianjun, director of the Harbin Municipal Labor Market said.
"On one side, there are many job seekers queuing in the labor markets. On the other side, many places are suffering severe labor shortages.
"The obvious reason for this is that the two sides cannot reach a satisfying price."
Zhang Zhihe, a farmer from Henan Province, has wandered around the city's labor market for three days and still cannot find a job.
Zhang, who wants to find work in a restaurant, said that a lack of vacancies was not the problem, just that jobs on offer were not very attractive.
"I have been to many restaurants in the last two days, but they didn't pay well," he said.
Zhang said a restaurant advertized wages of 600 yuan (US$72) per month.
"However, when I went there, the owner was only willing to pay 400 yuan (US$48) per month," he said.
Han Yulong, from the Municipal Labor and Employment Bureau, told China Daily that, in addition to low pay, job seekers were put off by the high number of wage default cases.
"Restaurants and construction sites often have a high demand for laborers, so job mobility is very high," he said.
"However, they often do not have formal labor deals. Once a labor dispute occurs, it is very hard for workers to defend their legal interests."
"The government's readjustment of its agriculture policies, such as the cancellation of agriculture tax, also means more farmers are willing to stay in their fields," he added.
Labor shortage is a growing problem in many areas of China.
The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates that some key areas in China's prosperous regions, such as the Pearl River Delta region and Fujian Province, are suffering labor shortages of around 10 percent.
(China Daily July 20, 2005)