China Has Foreign-Worker Problem, Too

While the U.S. and India squabble over H-1B and L-1 work visas for employees of Indian outsourcing companies, there’s a debate about foreign workers going on in China, too. Wait - China? The country with the world’s largest population and a bottomless pool of cheap labor? That China? Hard as it might be for Americans to believe, China has a growing illegal alien problem, too. According to Thursday’s South China Morning Post, officials in southern China’s Guangdong province are concerned about undocumented workers from neighboring countries. The SCMP cites the Nanfang Daily, the official newspaper of the Guangdong government, reporting that the province is about to impose new regulations on foreign workers. “With a huge workforce and strict immigration policies, the mainland is still closed to overseas labourers,” the SCMP reporter, Ivan Zhai, writes. However, local companies are looking for foreign workers thanks, in part, to higher costs associated with a new labor law that calls for better pay and benefits for Chinese workers. “More and more manufacturers are likely to employ illegal labourers from Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia. The reason is they that they will work for less pay and endure worse working conditions.”

For years, Guangdong officials have talked about the need to upgrade the local economy and shift away from reliance on low-wage labor. That’s happening, as companies like Foxconn (which manufactures for Apple and many others) are moving away from Guangdong. Foxconn is hiring as many as 300,000 workers at a new plant in central China. Not everybody can afford to pick up and move, though. For those companies stuck in Guangdong, hiring low-wage foreign workers is an attractive option, whether local officials like it or not.

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