Small private-owned enterprises and their workers

In the last decade, labour-intensive industries represented by the printing industry are gradually declining.

Many of the city centre areas were once factory areas. After going through a series of demolition and rental activities, the price of these properties has doubled compared with two years ago and many factories are no longer able to establish themselves in the city.

It is very common to witness that workers who struggle for dozens of years in Shenzhen fail to own a residence there.

Since the 2020 epidemic, the printing industry, which is already in a slump, has been further aggravated. The current situation of the entire manufacturing industry and its workforce has changed significantly from the past.

Many workers leave their hometown and head for Shenzhen in the hope of making a better living there. They work in factories for several years. All of them had such thought as once they earned sufficient savings they would return to their hometown and get married. However, the reality is different. A majority of workers choose to continue their work in these factories. After all, a steady income can be warranted. Besides, living facilities such as restaurants, groceries and dormitories are available in the industrial zone. In contrast, life in countryside is so inconvenient that even buying a bottle of water may take half an hour.

Those young workers who came to the metropolis years ago with aspirations are now married and have children. They are bearing financial pressure. After years of work, not all employees are able to master technical skills and taking up jobs with high salaries. For those who are not promoted workers with age getting elder, to leave the work of plant and find another job is an unrealistic choice. However, even if they succeed in taking another work, it is still hard for them to obtain a satisfying income.

The rapid urbanisation in Shenzhen is surprising with land rents of the urban areas soaring. As a consequence, the geographical distribution of factories change dramatically. Many factories move from the central parts of the city to the outskirts or peripheral zones with convenient transportation.

A manager of a private printing factory said, “When the real depression strikes in, we cannot bear the cost of labour when no order for good and business support company’s income, rents of the factory, management costs as well as water and electricity fees.” Therefore, many factories closed and workers don’t know where to go and what to do.

Mr Xie, a worker in a private enterprise working in the printing industry, said, “Covid-19 epidemic made many factories experience the worst situation. In order to control the epidemic, the local office had imposed a strict order to stop work, enforcing a blockade and a power cut in the factories in the industrial zones. The factories were forced to stop their business after 2020 New Year for several months, and many of them went into debt. Even now when everything is coming back to normal, whether the factories could survive still remains in doubt. Though most of them do resume full work, the number of orders has drastically reduced, making it difficult to maintain daily operations.

The condition of the workers is closely linked to the prospect of the factory. In the future, there will be fewer small-sized private factories and these plants will gradually lose their place to other larger companies in this industry.

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