BEIJING – China’s manufacturing recovery, fuelled in part by demand from COVID-constrained consumers abroad, has soared past expectations this year, so much so that factories are now struggling to fill a shortage of blue-collar workers to clear mounting orders.
The country’s output of industrial robots, computer equipment, and integrated circuits has roared back from its coronavirus paralysis – production for the year to November is up 22.2 percent, 10.1 percent and 15.9 percent, respectively.
Much of the manufacturing boom has come from foreign demand, with export growth topping expectations for eight of the last nine months. (Full Story)
The remarkable turnaround comes as China has mostly eradicated the virus and contrasts with the sluggish comebacks seen in major industrialized peers, where factories are still struggling with pandemic disruptions and the hit to demand.
China’s global export share increased to over 13 percent in the second and third quarters from 11 percent last year, according to Nomura, the highest for any quarter since at least 2006 when the investment bank started compiling the data.
While emergency stimulus in the United States and Europe pumped money into consumers’ wallets, the fight to contain the virus in those markets fired up demand both for China-made PPE goods and gadgets for westerners stuck at home.
Government data shows that in November there were more people employed in the industrial sector in Jinhua city, which includes the eastern export hub of Yiwu, than there had been at any time since end-2017.
“We laid off about 50 workers in the first half, and now with orders soaring, we’re short of staff and not able to further ramp up production,” said Deng Jinling, who owns a thermal flask factory in Yiwu, selling to the Middle East, United States and Europe.
“We tried hiring dozens of temporary workers but they’re not good enough,” said Deng.
Some workers she laid off have found jobs back home and are not willing to travel back just a few months before the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays in February.
But with clients chasing her heels, Deng bought two automated production lines at the end of November to boost efficiency.
“We’ve never thought about doing this before, but this year has been so busy and we’ve exhausted our options,” she said. “One automated production line is the equivalent of 10 workers.”
A private index by Renmin University tracking demand for blue-collar labor hit a record in the third quarter. Some factory managers have hiked wages by 25 percent to 10,000 yuan ($1,530) per month, well above the average starting wage for graduates, according to local media.
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