Battle for laborers

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, February 15, 2011
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The increasingly insufficient supply of rural laborers points not just to the gradual diminishing population dividend China has enjoyed in the past decades, but also to a historic shift in both the country's economic structure and its social progress.

Immediately after this year's Spring Festival, enterprises in costal areas, such as Shanghai and Jiangsu sent coaches to rural villages in Anhui and Sichuan seeking rural laborers. As the developed costal regions are now having to offer a larger share of their development fruit to attract rural laborers, they are promising higher wages and better working and living conditions.

At the same time, the booming western and central regions cannot afford to lose the battle for laborers in their endeavor to catch up with their costal counterparts. So central and western cities are doing whatever they can to attract rural laborers to promote their own economic growth. An increasing number of local governments are making preferential policies to solve practical problems for rural laborers - from providing better living conditions and better social security to providing education for their children.

The central government's strategy to develop the western and central regions is paying off. The growing manufacturing and service industries in these regions have created a lot of jobs. As a result, the provinces, and cities such as Sichuan, Anhui and Chongqing, which used to be major exporters of rural laborers, are now desperate for rural laborers to secure their own growth.

The year-on-year increase of 14.9 percent in disposable income for rural villagers in 2010, higher than that of their urban counterparts for the first time since 1998, testifies to the rising social status of rural migrant workers.

The message is that the redistribution of social wealth has started to tilt a little bit in favor of rural workers. There is the hope that rural workers will be able to settle down in cities and enjoy the same welfare as their urban counterparts in the near future. This will be a great achievement for the country's social development.

Yet, the lack of rural laborers has revealed an obstacle to the further development of the coastal areas. If they do not upgrade their industries, they will certainly lose their advantage in attracting workers, which will strangle their economic growth.

Upgrading their industries from low-end to hi-tech and trying to attract laborers with better education should be the way forward for the more developed regions.

As early participants in the country's economic reform and opening-up, they need to realize that the lack of rural laborers means that they are losing their advantages unless they heed the wake-up call and blaze new trails for further development.

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