Friday, April 4, 2008

One too many

Always a few too many.

The gym I’ve started going to in Suzhou is pretty small. It only has one floor, which is divided into a machine section, cardio section, free weights section and so on… I prefer to go to the gym straight after my Chinese lessons at university has finished, because at that time (around 12.30) the gym has a maximum of 5 people training there and I can get access to anything I want, anytime I want.

A very interesting thing I’ve noticed, however, and this doesn’t just appeal to this gym, is the amount of people WORKING at the gym, at this off-peak-hour. There are at least 4 girls in the reception who fight over who’s going to get the chance to swipe my gym card. Two guys in the empty smoothie bar who deliver encouraging smiles to sweaty treadmill runners. Seven personal trainers who walk around with straight backs, looking as if they own the place. And three dance instructors who tend to practice doing the moon walk in front of every machine I use. Then there are about five cleaning ladies and 15 other girls who walk around wearing a shirt that says ‘staff’ but who doesn’t stop long enough at one point for me to pinpoint what they are actually doing. And one trainer who plays ping-pong all day long. Or at least it seems so. He’s quite good.

I know that this is not a special case. Almost every single work place in China seems to suffer from the same ‘over staffed’ issue, no matter if they are busy or not. You rarely walk into a Chinese shop to be ONE shop assistant. Normally there are at least three, and most likely five.

I remember when I interviewed a restaurant owner of a tiny little restaurant in Beijing and he told me that he ‘only had 15 staff’.
‘Doing what?!
’ was my instant reaction, pointing out at the seven empty tables and the tiny little till.
‘We have seven waiters, one behind the bar, one is a host, one takes care of the payment, one is a supervisor, one is a…..’ Well, you get the point.

I guess that is how it goes when labour is cheap? In my opinion, however, –it simply slows down the efficiency of things.


Anonymous said...

I noticed this as well when I went to China last year. I wasn't used to all the attention. :-)

Anonymous said...

The demand outweighs the supply for work. Therefore some restaurants that are making a lot of money hire these people to do nothing more than to make their place seem prosperous

Anonymous said...

don't worry, in Taiwan i have noticed the same thing! and here salaries are much-much higher compared to China (a monthly minimum is around USD 535).

for example, visiting a posh department store in Gaoxiong i found FIVE shop assistants in Cartier's showroom. and none of them speaking English, of course (well, French i did not try, though).

so what is it, this Chinese overstaffing?

Lullun said...

Ja, jag tänkte också på det medan jag skrattande läste första halvan av inlägget, att så är det ju överallt i Kina. Och så kom du till det själv. Ja, visst är det minst sagt lite "bakvänt". Men riktigt bra beskrivet! :-)

Anonymous said...

My friends younger sister works at a bakery in Shandong and is paid 300 yuan a month. Yes labour is cheap :-) Too bad quantity does not necessarily translate to quality. How do you like Suzhou?

Jonna Wibelius said...

Im hiinamaal -well, apparently an overstaffed company has a high status in China...? (Btw -where u from? Checked your blog but didn't understand a word of it! Estonian language?)

Lullun -I'm glad I made u laugh! :)

Nick -Suzhou isn't bad.. but it's not Shanghai! ;)