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Migrant Workers Needed in Beijing
Customers are returning to Beijing's restaurants after the worst of the SARS outbreak, but staff shortages are now a problem as many migrant workers have left the city.

The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome had a dispiriting effect on restaurant boss Li Juan before June because of the sharp drop in customers.

Longing for business, 28-year-old Li sat at the entrance of the three-storey Dufushidian Restaurant in northern Beijing's Tiantongyuan district and watched all the passers-by with the hope they would enter.

But Li, a native of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, continued to be disappointed even though posters on the windows advertised a takeaway service and announced "This restaurant is sterilized."

Since the beginning of June, business has gradually returned to normal, and a pleasant smile can again be seen on Li's face.

"But the new problem has arisen of there not being enough serving staff for all the customers," said Li, who has to work as both manager and waiter.

At the end of April, Li had to make about 80 employees redundant and keep on only 15.

"Some of them have already gone back (to their home provinces) and some of them are concerned about whether SARS will break out again," he said.

Li's former employees are not alone.

In April and May, 8 million migrant workers nationwide lost their city jobs and returned to their hometowns.

An official surnamed Guo with the Beijing-based National SARS Control and Prevention Headquarters told China Daily that a large-scale flow of labor is emerging as the outbreak is being controlled.

"Governments at various levels should fully implement State Council measures to ensure the orderly flow of labor," said Guo, who refused to give his full name.

As with students returning to university, migrating workers must have a health report. The required report mainly consists of a 14-day record of their body temperature taken by local government and health organizations before they left the area. After their arrival in their destination cities, they have to undergo a seven-day community-based medical observation.

Guo said: "The observation is totally different from isolation and their temperatures should be taken and reported regularly.

"We encourage the flow of labor because that is the way some farmers can make money."

(China Daily June 12, 2003)

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