A Reuters investigation of six factory towns in southern China has uncovered widespread employment of illegal workers from Vietnam, as well as the presence of workers from Myanmar and Laos. Employers supply the workers with fake identification and sometimes confine them to factory compounds to keep them out of sight of the authorities. Chinese human smuggling syndicates, known as “snakeheads”, work with Vietnamese gangs to control the lucrative trade, workers and labor brokers in China said. As China’s economy slows, factory owners increasingly face a choice between moving production away from the higher-wage coast or paying snakeheads to smuggle in low-cost foreign workers who cost less, have no protections and are easily laid off.
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