09/05/2006, 00.00
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Migrants' wages increase in Guangdong

The "new slaves" who are building China's economic miracle are drawing away from the Guangdong belt, one of the country's most developed regions. To stop them, the government is offering 80 euros a month.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The governments of some Chinese provinces have decided to raise the minimum wages of migrant workers, in a bid to encourage them to continue their backbreaking work in factories and construction sites that are building the nation's economic miracle.

Economists and industrialists have recorded a drop in the influx of workers who are forced by poverty in rural areas to move to cities to work in underpaid jobs without labour rights.

The increases, which come into effect before the end of the month, will be implemented in the provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang, Gansu and in the municipalities of Shanghai and Shenyang.

The first province is the heart of the Chinese economy and one of the richest areas in the country: here migrants will be guaranteed a monthly minimum wage of 780 yuan [around 78 euros] but this is only in the capital, Guangzhou: in cities of the Pearl River delta like Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai and Foshan, the ceiling of the minimum wage will be 690 yuan [around 69 euros].

Zheng Chengye, vice-chairman of the Guangdong Federation of Industry and Commerce, said the increases would not have too much impact on industry, especially at Hong Kong businesses, which pay well in comparison to those of mainland China.

Economist Cheng Jiansan, from the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said the government decision could "pinch" the finances of many of the 800,000 Hong Kong firms working in China, because more than 80% operated in labour-intensive sectors such as toys and clothes. For these jobs, migrant "new slaves" are indispensable.

Cheng said "only about 20% of the Hong Kong companies in the delta could survive by upgrading their industrial structures and the rest will move on or die within five years."

Along with the new salary structure, a new system was announced of checks on workers and their wages, which employers will no longer be able to withhold.

As an aside, the economist mentioned the fact that the decision "could help to ease the shortage of migrants workers" who are increasingly seeking to avoid the Guangdong "belt".

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