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Disgruntled workers on the move
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Tired of fighting for the wages owed to him, Jia Changzhen has said he is calling it quits and leaving the city to seek his fortune in another part of the country.

Jia, who is in his late 20s and has worked in Shenzhen for close to four years, said the power equipment company for which he works has defaulted salaries for over- five months.

"Some of my colleagues are willing to kneel down and beg for their salaries.

"They have rent to pay and need the money simply to survive," Jia told China Daily.

Jia said his colleagues are used to the private company defaulting on wages, which are usually delayed by two or three months, but they are finding it harder and harder to wait.

"Although our country has enacted labor laws to protect workers, the large majority of companies are privately run and employees' rights and interests are not always guaranteed," the engineering graduate said.

While seeking legal advice to get back the money owed him, Jia said he is trying his luck in other mainland cities like Shanghai, or might even move back to his hometown in the northeast.

He is among a growing number of workers who are leaving or thinking of leaving the city for better prospects.

Li Jian, who works as a legal consultant to an electronics company, said the management has asked him to legalize its payment system in an attempt to keep workers.

"Workers at my client's company have left in their hundreds," he said.

"Previously, the management offered pay in accordance with the city's minimum wage but did not pay for overtime.

"But they were forced to legalize the payment system given workers' greater awareness of the labor law and rising pressure to retain staff."

Li said Shenzhen's competitiveness in attracting labor is actually lower than that in many other mainland cities.

A survey conducted by the Southern Metropolis Daily showed 18 percent of the city's migrant workers decided to leave for good.

A social security management branch in Longgang district, where most of the city's labor-intensive industries are located, said more than 40,000 people withdrew from the social security system last year, meaning they did not intend to stay long in the city.

The situation in Shenzhen, which has been suffering from labor shortages since 2005, might get even worse after the Lunar New Year holiday, the newspaper forecast.

According to the Shenzhen labor authority, the shortage grew to about 700,000 in the third quarter, up from 470,000 in the second quarter.

Mi Guochen, a press official with the Shenzhen labor bureau, said figures for the fourth quarter will be released next week and the gap is expected to have narrowed.

"It's hard to make any predictions on the labor market because many complicated elements are involved," Mi told China Daily.

(China Daily January 18, 2008)


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