According to the head of the scandal-ridden Taiwanese technology manufacturing company Foxconn, China’s young generation of workers are no longer interested in blue-collar factory jobs. Instead, they have their sights set on work that's technology-based and that doesn’t require physical labor.
“The young generation don’t want to work in factories,” Terry Gou, founder of chairman of Foxconn, told a delegation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bali, Indonesia. “They want to work in services or the Internet or another more easy and relaxed job.”
That, Gou said, has changed the job landscape. “Many workers are moving to the services sector and [now] in the manufacturing sector, total demand [for workers] is now more than supply,” Gou explained to the Financial Times.
Factory jobs were extremely popular at the beginning of China’s breakneck growth in the 1980s, and continued to be popular the following two decades. For the most part, migrant workers would come from all over the country, from mostly poorer, impoverished villages in central or western China, work tirelessly and send back earnings to their families.
While China’s factory lines aren’t about to close anytime soon, many are admitting that manufacturers aren’t recruiting much new blood. Now, as China’s middle class becomes wealthier and more stable, younger workers from rural areas no longer want to work a stable factory job, and are setting their sights, instead, on a piece of the country’s new wealth. “It’s difficult to find works nowadays,” Yu Hexi, a 52-year-old factory manager in eastern China, told The Telegraph. “Many workers have returned to their home provinces in central and western China, like Henan, where local companies have started developing. Local governments are now encouraging [workers] to go back and offering benefits.”
Now, while no longer faced with the problem of having to turn away eager young workers, factory owners have branched out and have begun hiring older men and women to fill their assembly lines. Others have even resorted to moving production altogether, opting to have their factories in places like Vietnam or Cambodia, where factory life is still a common and lucrative livelihood for younger migrant workers.
That being said, company’s like Foxconn are adapting and learning to survive on fewer workers. Gou said that not only have operations moved more inland, where factory jobs are more desirable, but the company has also begun eliminating some factory line positions by “automating more of its assembly lines.