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Shanghai Lacks Senior Technicians

Highly paid foreign workers are not the answer to eastern China's shortage of senior technicians, according to a survey of Shanghai human resource managers.

Market-Expert, a local consulting company, surveyed 785 companies in Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Wenzhou about a plan to offer more than 1,400 unemployed Japanese technicians jobs in local companies.

More than 70 percent of the companies surveyed said it isn't necessary to import foreign technicians, while only 20 percent supported the idea.

While it's hard to say just how big the shortage of senior technicians in the region is, managers in many manufacturing sectors say they can't find skilled workers to run computerized production lines.

This August, a Shanghai-based headhunting company collected information about 1,400 Japanese workers and said it would find jobs for them at factories in the Yangtze River Delta region.

Most of the candidates were senior technicians in Japan's manufacturing sector who have been laid-off due to the country's sluggish economy. If they take jobs in China, their average annual salary would be around 400,000 yuan (US$48,192), about four times as much as their Chinese counterparts.

The first batch of technicians is scheduled to begin work early next year in local Japanese-invested or private companies.

Many Shanghai-based firms aren't interested in hiring the technicians, however, due to the high salaries they expect. Others don't see imported experts as a long-term solution to their problems.

"Though we really need skilled technicians, companies will always think twice about a technician's value before paying such a high salary," said Chen Ming, HR manager for Shanghai Baosteel, China's largest steel producer.

"The problem is whether these technicians will really help us," said Wei Bing, another local HR manager.

Over 53 percent of the managers surveyed agreed with Wei's statement that "importing (workers) will not boost the development of China's manufacturing industry." About the same percentage of managers recognized the importance of training domestic technicians.

"Since foreign technicians are usually contracted for one year or less, they can help solve the city's short-term technician shortage but cannot be relied on for the long term," said Zhang Dezhi, director of the Shanghai Job Placement Center.

"Besides, high salaries will prevent the majority of local companies from hiring foreign workers," he said, adding that the only solution to the problem is to train technicians locally.

(eastday.com December 16, 2003)

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