Chinese factories eager to hire illegal Vietnamese labor

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A large number of illegal Vietnamese workers have found employment in Chinese factories thanks to a labor shortage and unintended side effects of the China's Labor Contract Law, a  Hong Kong newspaper said Friday.

The South China Morning Post quoted workers at a fan making factory in Guangdong's Foshan City as saying that the Vietnamese usually comprise 10 percent of its 1,000-strong workforce. They are part of a growing but illegal foreign labor force in the Pearl River Delta, mainly from Vietnam and other neighboring countries.

Guangdong police uncovered 13 cases involving the illegal hiring of foreign workers last year and deported 180 foreigners for not having work permits, Xinhua News Agency reported. In the first three months of this year, there were six cases and 154 people detained.

Yao Shibo, a trader with close links to delta factories, told the Post that the hiring of illegal foreign workers was an open secret and rampant in most delta cities, including Zhuhai, Dongguan, Yunfu, Foshan, Qingyuan, Shunde and Zhaoqing.

"Vietnamese laborers are favored by factory bosses because they look the same as Guangdong or Guangxi natives; they work overtime and demand lower salaries than their Chinese counterparts; and, most importantly, bosses can fire them at anytime without having to worry about China's labor laws," Yao said.

"I know many bosses, especially those from small furniture and processing plants, like hiring such 'black' workers. They mainly use them for assembly-line work, which is not technical and requires no particular skills. The wages are not that high, between 1,000 and 1,500 yuan (US$147-$220)."

The labor shortage has driven up Chinese workers' wages, with an inexperienced laborer from a rural area able to earn a basic salary of 1,400 yuan a month in a Dongguan factory.

Under the Labor Contract Law introduced in January 2008 to protect workers' rights - employers have to pay double for overtime work done pay after eight hours and triple for work done on statutory holidays. This can boost the monthly income to 1,800 yuan or more.

The law also requires workers to be paid the same salary, even during the off-season.

"They [illegal foreign workers] would be most welcome during the peak season to meet orders," Yao said. "Bosses can let them go anytime the orders are done or reduced.

"But if you want to fire Chinese workers in the low season, you have to pay them compensation. Vietnamese workers are illegal but they are also much more affordable."

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