Employers seek job hunters with vacancy boards in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. (File photo)
The annual post-Spring Festival labor shortage in China's coastal manufacturing regions is less severe this year due to falling orders.
In Keqiao District, a textile manufacturing area in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, few jobs were posted at factory entrances on Monday.
In Dongguan in south China's Guangdong Province, 136 polled enterprises plan to recruit 18,630 workers this year, down 18 percent from last year. Despite shrinking prospects, 2 million workers have returned to or arrived in the city following the recent holiday, 5.8 percent more than last year and over 88 percent of factories have resumed production.
Dongguan Hirosawa Automotive Trim Co. Ltd. was looking for 120 new workers and completed recruitment in two days, the first time in almost six years that there were more applicants than jobs on offer.
Robots have also started to erode job opportunities. Dongguan started to replace humans with robots in 2014, in an attempt to survive a floundering market, said deputy mayor He Yu. Dongguan has now spent more than 10 billion yuan (1.5 billion U.S. dollars) on 1,262 projects to replace 71,000 humans with robots.
"We only need half as many workers as in the past to operate automated equipment and produce more," said Zhang Xilin, general manager of Guangdong Lianying Furniture.
The slowing economy and accelerating economic restructuring also ease of labor shortage, said Yang Jianhua, head of the public policy institute at Zhejiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
LABOR MOVEMENT CHANGE
Although manufacturing vacancies are dwindling, new businesses are creating millions more. More than 700,000 new enterprises were registered in Dongguan last year, 13 percent more than in 2014. Many of the new businesses are either working online or in service industry.
Guangzhou Qiandama Farm Produce Co. Ltd., an online farmers market, plans to recruit 200 workers including cashiers, butchers and salespeople, as the number of offline grocery stores it serves increased from 30 to 200 last year.
More migrant workers who were previously employed on the coast are now seeking work closer to home. Zhou Ronghua, 39, a technician in a textile firm in the eastern city of Wenzhou for 15 years, is determined to go back to his home in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province.
"I would rather stay at home if I can find a job that pays 4,000 yuan a month," said the man who earned twice as much in Wenzhou.
With changing job opportunities as industries migrate in search of reduced costs, many migrant workers are tempted to return home and stay there. Some 150,000 returned to Jiangxi in the third quarter of 2015, 40 percent more than the same period in 2014, according to the provincial human resources and social security department.
"If I could not find work as an electrician or mechanic in Jiangxi, I will open a farmhouse restaurant," said Hu An'guo, 48, who has worked in Zhejiang for 14 years.
As migrants return, the government will organize job fairs and provide entrepreneurial training and preferential loans to encourage them to start their own businesses, said Huang Guangpu, deputy head of the Jiangxi provincial employment bureau.