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Chinese companies increasingly seek out cheap N. Korean labor

A growing number of Chinese companies are seeking cheap North Korean labor due to the recent rise in labor costs in China. In response, the North Korean government is trying to sign new contracts that will sharply increase workers’ wages.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Daily NK source in China said Friday that about 100 small and medium-sized companies in Tumen, Jilin Province, are trying to hire North Korean workers.

With the recent surge in Chinese companies seeking to hire North Korean workers, companies in the two countries have been busy negotiating worker deployment agreements.

Accordingly, North Korean trading companies are drastically increasing the wages of North Korean workers sent to China. The North Korean government is currently asking for RMB 4,500 (about USD 620) in monthly wages per worker.

However, local Chinese workers make RMB 4,500 to RMB 5,000 a month, so Chinese companies are passing on the North Korean proposal. Wage negotiations now hover between RMB 2,500 and RMB 3,500 a month.

“With the number of companies in China looking to hire North Korean workers growing, there are brisk negotiations to hire those workers,” the source said. “In North Korea, people say this is an opportunity to raise worker wages.”

As recently as April, Chinese companies offered RMB 2,100 to RMB 2,300 a month, roughly what North Korean workers have traditionally earned. However, with more Chinese companies asking for workers, new North Korean workers dispatched to China earn over 30% more. North Korea is also telling Chinese companies that it will send workers to whichever companies pay the most.

All this suggests that North Korea will be able to expand the amount of foreign currency it earns through exporting labor to China. 

In fact, a Chinese garment factory in Liaoning Province recently agreed to hire 300 North Korean workers at RMB 3,500 per worker per month.

Local Chinese governments play direct role in hiring North Korean workers

What is also interesting to note is that Chinese regional governments have recently taken a more prominent direct role in the recruitment of North Korean workers. The Tumen city government, for its part, is heavily involved in the efforts of the 100 or so local businesses to hire North Korean workers.

In the past, ethnic Koreans in China, or the Chinese themselves, brokered deals between Chinese companies and North Korean trading companies to send North Korean workers. Recently, however, Chinese regional governments have not only measured the demand of Chinese companies for North Korean workers but have also set ceilings for wage negotiations.

Moreover, even after negotiations are completed, North Korean workers can enter China only if local governments grant them permission.

Chinese local governments are actively involved in hiring North Korean workers as the sanctions regime loosens and China and Russia openly side with North Korea in the U.N. Security Council.

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

Please send any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

Read in Korean

June 26, 2024 at 08:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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