Chinese skilled laborers look beyond the seas

Updated: 2013-12-16 10:14

By Zhang Yuchen in Shandong (China Daily)

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Chinese skilled laborers look beyond the seas
A worker learns how to weld at a boiler factory in Xiaoli. The factory is one of town's main bases for the training of blue-collar workers. [Provided to China Daily]

International Asians

Asians form the largest single group among the world's migratory labor population, according to John Wilmoth, director of the Population Division at the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Currently, approximately 19 million Asians are resident in European countries, while there are 16 million living on the North American continent and 3 million in Australia. Moreover, around 19 million Chinese have chosen the US as a destination.

Chinese skilled laborers look beyond the seas

At the same time, Asia itself is seeing huge internal labor flows as a result of the continent's economic rise since 2000.

Although a large number of Chinese emigrants are high-level professionals and investors, skilled blue-collar workers are also in great demand. Last year, 512,000 of them left China to seek work overseas.

Limited talent pool

"There is global competition for a limited pool of talent. Countries are increasingly in competition to attract the best migrants via preferential visa regimes, fast-track settlement options and other methods," said Khalid Koser, deputy director and academic dean at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

While the big picture shows that specific immigration policies have been amended to take domestic labor markets and the international economic environment into account, the most-popular destination countries have been tightening immigration measures.

In July, Australia revamped its immigration policy for skilled workers policy and reduced the number of skill categories for temporary visa applications - known as Subclass 457 visas - to 187, around one-third of the previous number.

The 457 visa allows skilled workers to travel to Australia - which absorbs the largest number of skilled global talent every year - and work in their nominated occupation for an approved sponsor for up to four years. It has traditionally been the easiest visa for new immigrants to obtain and from February 2012 to February 2013, 107,500 people from across the world were granted a 457.

Among those 187 categories, around 40 are related to skilled blue-collar employees, such as pipeline workers, welders and carpenters. Every year, millions of blue-collar workers leave China. While the fact that they start work earlier than their foreign counterparts means that they usually have greater work experience, their language skills are often poor. In July 2009, the Australian immigration department raised the bar in English language skills.

The problem is not how many people want to emigrate, it's how wide the door will be opened for the free flow of immigrants, said Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, quoted by China News Agency in May.