Guangdong ponders another increase in the minimum wage

30 November 2010
The Guangdong authorities are considering a further increase in the minimum wage, after a 21 percent increase six months ago failed to resolve the province’s on-going labour shortage.

“Guangdong might adjust its minimum wage levels early in 2011[around the time of the Chinese New Year],” Ge Guoxing, deputy director of the province’s department of human resources and social security, told a press conference Monday.

The minimum wage in the provincial capital Guangzhou increased, on 1 May, to 1,030 yuan per month, while the rate in Pearl River Delta towns like Dongguan was raised to 920 yuan. The lowest rate, in the province’s poorest counties, was increased to 660 yuan a month.

However, rapid hikes in food prices and accommodation costs this year, together with higher wages in other provinces, have meant that Guangdong is still unable to attract the labour it needs. With far more opportunities and a lower cost of living in the inland provinces that have traditionally supplied Guangdong with labour, many more workers are choosing to stay closer to home or move to the Yangtze River Delta, where wages are somewhat higher. The minimum wage in Shanghai is now 1,120 yuan per month, while the highest rate in Zhejiang is 1,100 yuan.

Recent strikes over low pay in Shenzhen and Foshan are a clear indication that wages the Pearl River Delta are still a long way away from providing a decent standard of living. And the provincial government still seems committed to introducing regulations on collective bargaining as a means of increasing wages - albeit in a watered down form after determined opposition from the Hong Kong business lobby.

In addition to raising wages, the Guangdong government claims it is becoming more strenuous in its enforcement of labour laws, and in its protection of workers’ legal rights. Local labour departments in the province, helped 158,400 migrant workers claim back more than 297 million yuan in unpaid wages and benefits in the first ten months of this year, Ge said.

Moreover, he said, the government was actively trying to make life in Guangdong’s cities easier for rural migrant workers by granting urban residency to selected applicants. More than 103,600 rural residents, mainly from Guangdong, had been granted urban residency so far this year, Ge added. The province is currently home to more than 30 million migrant workers, the vast majority of whom still have a rural residency.
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