Need a job? Well, do you speak Chinese – in particular, Cantonese? While throughout most of North America and Europe the financial crisis and its dire economic effects are still on-going, as Germany’s Die Zeit now reports, In China manpower is lacking.
I make reference there to “Cantonese” because the really acute labor shortages are showing up in those regions of the southeast that have long claimed the lion’s share of China’s export-oriented industry. Guangdong city alone (it used to be known as “Canton”) is said to lack 2 million workers. But everywhere in that part of China there are phenomena which point clearly to increasing desperation from employers when it comes to finding workers. Unemployed-looking people are accosted on the street and at train stations, by eager recruiters wearing “Welcome!” T-shirts; local authorities stage job-fairs, but nobody bothers to show up. And the like. For, to hear this piece tell it, China certainly is not suffering from any recession, not any more: exports are now back to their 2008 levels and rising.
Keep in mind, it’s also not especially highly-trained or -educated workers that are sought (although, if you’re seriously thinking about making the move yourself, learning the language could indeed be a complicating factor). Remember, that has not been China’s traditional manufacturing paradigm in any case, which instead has been based on cheap, simple manufacturing, performed by basic, lowly-paid workers – reinforced annually by as much as 150 million new people moving in to the big cities from off the farm to find a job and sample urban life. Presumably that stream from the countryside is still there, but businessmen are still having problems recruiting a work-force, even as wages rise 10% a year and even 20% annually in the “hardest hit” (in terms of worker-shortage) areas.
If conditions are indeed anything like how they are reported here, all this has to call into serious question that “simple, cheap manufacturing” economic model. China may be about to lose its reputation as the place you go to have your stuff made at rock-bottom costs; time to go elsewhere for that. (Myanmar? Mongolia?) Still, not only is there indeed a new Chinese capability coming on-line for higher-value, quality production, but business leaders there are also convinced that the country has accumulated an expertise in supply-chain management that should keep it very competitive for some time to come.