About two years ago, we wrote about how Chinese cities are taking aggressive measures to attract talent. Now, with many cities outside the worst-hit Hubei province trying to resume economic activities, the competition again starts.

The difference is, many this time are targeting ordinary workers, not high skill talent.

The city of Yiwu, famous for the world’s biggest wholesale market for manufactured small consumer goods, is on the forefront. The local government not only sends buses to provinces supplying migrant workers (some of these buses will travel thousands of kilometres), but also pledges to pay for the train tickets for anyone heading to the city to work.

One of the journeys made by Yiwu buses fetching migrant workers

In addition, if a returning worker brings new workers, the newbies will get three days free lodging and food paid by the government.

Circular from Yiwu Government

Yiwu usually houses millions of migrant workers, but as of last week, only 50k+ had returned. The local government was alert enough to launch drastic measures to get more workers for the economy.

It also sent work groups of government employees to various provinces to coordinate with local governments for the recruitment exercise.

And Yiwu is not the only one. While buses are common, Hangzhou, home to Alibaba and capital of Zhejiang province where Yiwu situates, sent dedicated non-stop trains to the Western provinces to take workers back; while nearby Jiangshan even sent chartered planes.

As salaries go up and migrant worker numbers stops growing, the competition will only go more and more fierce.

On the other hand, some of the cities, particularly in the non coastal areas, are making it very hard for businesses to resume work – again shows the disparity of priorities of local governments, and varying levels of governance.

The following is from a city in Sichuan province, where any business will need to go through layers of approval (stamps) to resume work:


Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].