The following is a translation of selections from this blog post by Wan Xiaodao. These suggestions may not be particularly feasible economically speaking, but they’re worth reading because they speak to the dissatisfaction that exists in the rural labor community.
Under the influence of the financial crisis that swept the globe last year, there were labor shortages; nowadays as the economy warms back up, labor shortages have reappeared. According to reports, in the Chang Triangle, the Pearl Triangle, and even in Wuhan, after the holiday there has been a dearth of laborer recruitment. This problem directly affects the development of our economy, and seeing as businessmen and scholars only know how to drink tea and chase girls, don’t know how to investigate [things] among the people and thus can’t resolve this problem, this worker [i.e., I] will undertake the difficult job of showing everyone how to get on the right track.
Resolving the problem begins with these five things:
- Raise the salaries of rural laborers. Business is about making money, for both bosses and laborers. Many workers in factories make less in a year than they would if they were farming, so of course they don’t come. Some people will say that rural workers’ salaries are quite high and that even college students can’t compete […] the “high salaries” of workers come from their blood and sweat working long hours and extra shifts.
At many factories in the South, the salaries are just the local area’s minimum wage, several hundred RMB a month, just enough to live on. Their real net income comes from overtime. The “eight hours of work a day” system is just a piece of paper, they work from eight in the morning ’till five at night and then add more shifts […] until two in the morning or even all night long. The bosses only care about making money, and see the workers as machines, not people […] Aside from rural laborers, only prisoners understand this kind of life.
If you want to resolve the issue, raise worker salaries […] and guarantee at least 3000 RMB/month. I think if you do that, rural laborers will volunteer to become your “machines”. If raising salaries causes losses, think about how to use new technology to lower net costs of your product, don’t always go taking it out of workers’ salaries. If you can’t cut costs and raising salaries will cause losses, then just shut down the enterprise for good.
- Reasonably safeguard the rights and interests of workers. […] I have said before, many government departments weren’t created for us workers, they were created to give rich people a back door. I have spoken with many laborers’ rights defenders, and they’ve said many bosses are actually local representatives, or on this or that [government or Party] committee, etc.
I have heard from brothers in Shanghai that those with a Shanghai hukou are treated differently from other workers for doing the same jobs, and are guaranteed 600 RMB/month more than the non-local workers [… Also,] in the South, some factories only hire women, with the reasoning that women are easier to manage. I ran into this problem a few years ago in Shenzhen. You should know, among young laborers there are some men who don’t make money; why do they keep working? They have come to the factory to find girlfriends.
- Humanize business, show some warmth to the families of laborers.One hundred percent of businesses will say this point is clear and logical, but I think eighty percent don’t do it. Those bosses think of themselves as the workers’ savior, as though they were benevolently giving to charity by paying their workers’ salaries. They are wrong. We laborers (especially the new generation) think this way: we’re helping you make money and not asking you to be grateful; at the very least, you must pay me for however much I work. Without us to help you, you would be reduced to a poor wretch, too.
[I remember at one job making shoes we had a boss who held our salaries over spring festival because] there was a chance we wouldn’t come back after the holiday, and said that when we got back from Spring Festival there would be a 200 RMB subsidy. We didn’t want that, we just wanted the money we were owed. I had never before seen a boss who refused to pay wages before Spring Festival. [A few days before the holiday], several hundred of us “surrounded him, and wouldn’t let his car leave the factory. The boss gave everyone a bag of candy, which we threw on the ground until the whole entrance was covered in candy. We were very angry. It was already the 27th [of the lunar month], the new year was very soon. This kept up straight until night, when the boss finally gave us our wages.
- Deepen reforms of the hukou residence registration system, let rural laborers urbanize. For this, we must rely on our great Party. If you let rural people become city people, the labor force in the city increases greatly, and the problem of not finding workers would be easily solved. In industrial parks build laborer areas, the houses need not be too good but they must be strong and the prices can’t be too high, no higher than 10,000 RMB […] Haha, it seems I’ve let my imagination run wild. Of course, if things were this way, it would lead to many problems, rural people would vie to be the first to get to the city, and what would we do with no one left to farm the earth?
- Shift factories towards the interior. If there’s no way to urbanize rural laborers, then move factories towards the interior. If you put the factories on workers doorsteps, you don’t have to worry you won’t have enough. This would alleviate the pressure of Spring Festival travel, and promote the development of the economy in the interior [as opposed to just along the coast…] actually, many businesses have shifted towards the interior, but the situation is nothing to be optimistic about. Because the internal regions are so poor the local governments look at these enterprises like a hungry dog looks at a piece of fatty meat. The town I’m in is like this, [they] have already driven off several enterprises.
[This story has been republished on Forbes’s website!]