September 19, 2010

BUILT THAT WALL IN THE WRONG PLACE, HUH?:

Illegal immigrants pour across border seeking work: Sound familiar? It's happening in China, where rapid growth has led to a shortage of workers to fill low-skill jobs. But the Chinese don't seem to be concerned. (David Pierson, 9/19/10, Los Angeles Times)

The illegal immigrants come seeking higher wages, steady employment and a chance at better lives for their families. They cross the border in remote stretches where there are no fences or they pay traffickers to sneak them past border guards.

Then they work as maids, harvest crops or toil hunched in sweatshops.

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As familiar as this sounds, this is not the United States or Europe, but China, which is attracting an increasing number of undocumented workers to fill the bottom rungs of its booming economy. Tens of thousands of foreigners from Southeast Asia, North Korea and even faraway Africa are believed to be working here illegally.

Among the most active areas for the furtive crossings is China's 800-mile southern borders with Vietnam, whose people are drawn by jobs in China that may pay twice as much as they do at home.

"People are struggling for money in Vietnam. They look at China and think it's rich," said Anh Bang, a 23-year-old Vietnamese clothing merchant who travels legally to China several times a month but empathizes with those who enter without documents. "In China they can find a job easily and earn so much more."

Labor shortages in China's export-heavy eastern coastal regions are driving demand for foreign workers. So are Chinese workers' calls for higher wages, which are cutting into employers' profits.

"This is an economic phenomenon," said Zhang Wenshan, a professor of law at Guangxi University who has studied the rise of illegal workers. "It's globalization. Labor costs are increasing in China. This is hard on employers who don't necessarily need sophisticated laborers. So a lot of foreigners are motivated to come here.… It's like how many Chinese have gone to the U.S. to seek better lives."

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 19, 2010 7:13 AM
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