In the wake of this summer's massive flooding, which has swept away countless hectares of fields and destroyed thousands of rural factories, Guangdong is bracing for a tide of a different sort - that of migrant labourers travelling to the province's industrial cities in search of work. The prospect is daunting, as Guangdong already stands as the leading employer of migrant labour in the country. According to the provincial labour department, there are up to four million registered migrants working in Guangdong on any given day. Economic migrants - from as far away as Heilongjiang in the northeast and Sichuan in the southwest - have beaten a path to the province to work in Guangdong's labour-intensive, export-oriented collective and foreign-invested factories. They have been joined by local Guangdong job-hunters who have moved from the province's impoverished northern mountainous areas to the boom towns of the Pearl River Delta. The number of waidi, or outside job-seekers, is certainly set to increase. The Information Times in Guangzhou recently reported that county leaders in flood-ravaged areas of Hubei, Jiangxi and Hunan were encouraging labourers to find work elsewhere, often providing temporary identification cards and bus and train fares to help out. One county leader said that, of the 30,000 labourers located in one Hubei flood district, 17,240 had left for other parts, primarily Wuhan and Guangdong. In flooded areas of Jiangxi and Hunan, township leaders have been advising people to 'save themselves'. Such advice flies in the face of central government pronouncements encouraging flood victims to remain in towns and villages to assist in reconstruction. However, Guangdong officials weeks ago realised such suggestions were likely to be ignored and dispatched work teams to flood-stricken regions to assess damage and establish links with local leaders to better control what is expected to become a massive migration following Spring Festival next year. Provincial concern was expressed last month by labour department chief Gan Zhaojiong, who called on neighbouring provincial governments to implement controls to prevent the 'blind' and 'illegal' immigration to Guangdong. Mr Gan also said provincial labour officials should strictly implement work policies and labour registration to ensure social order. At present, the number of registered migrant workers is actually on the decline. According to the Guangdong Labour Department, there were 3.7 million registered migrants working in the province at the end of June, representing a 9.7 per cent drop compared with the end of last year. That was welcome news to provincial officials struggling to maintain employment for Guangdong's workers in the face of shrinking exports and higher numbers of sidelined state industrial employees. As of the end of last year, Guangdong had about one million laid-off and unemployed workers. In person, provincial labour officials strike a more reserved attitude. 'It is not apparent that workers from flood-stricken areas are leaving their home towns,' Wang Guanyu, section chief of the provincial labour department's labour and employment section, diplomatically explained at an interview recently. 'We cannot say it is a tide .' However, Mr Wang said the labour department was engaged in preparation work for a possible influx. Moreover, the labour official said central government policies on how to handle massive arrivals of labourers from flood-ravaged areas were expected in the near future.