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Labor Shortage Reported in China

by Christopher Chantrill
March 11, 2006 at 2:45 pm

HERE IS ASTONISHING news from China. In Shenzhen in south China, they have got themselves a labor shortage, according to Jane Macartney of the London Times.

There are only nine workers available for every ten jobs on offer in Guangdong and the situation is getting worse.

And it is not just that workers are scarce. They are also choosy about where they work.

The days of sweatshop labour may be numbered. Workers have mobile phones and word soon goes round of any mistreatment. Mr Chen said: “If you are a profitable company then you must offer good working conditions. The business environment is very different now, and a factory owner can’t expect to earn profits out of the mouths of his workers.”

Cell-phones, eh. Who knew?

The same thing is happening in India. I talked with an Delhi architect in the fall of 2004 and he said that Indian companies are finding that they can’t find enough labor when they open factories near Delhi. So they have to build further out from the big cities.

It seems that in East and South Asia the same cycle that Europe and America experienced is repeating itself, although on a blisteringly fast track. Initially, when industrialization starts, workers are frequently abused and exploited. But after a time, they no longer have to take whatever is on offer, and the exploitation fades away.

How exactly does that work, and how can we adjust institutions to mitigate and minimize the problem? Two hundred and fifty years after the start of the industrial revolution, we still don’t really know.

Do labor unions, wage and hour laws, child labor laws really help? We really don’t know.

What we do know is that after a period of initial exploitation the workers emerge into prosperity.

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Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.


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©2007 Christopher Chantrill