But there is still an excess of workers in the countryside, according to expert Zhou Lijuan adjusts the newspapers on her bicycle before starting her 25km daily morning paper route at 4am. She is soaked to the skin, but her monthly salary of about 1,000 yuan is a relatively high wage for female migrant workers. The 19-year-old from Anhui province came to Beijing four years ago and went through several positions before settling on the delivery job. The work is tough, but Ms Zhou is benefiting from a labour shortage in some of the country's fastest-growing areas. 'The job is so hard that not many people can bear it,' she said. 'Every time my boss hires a dozen new people, only three or four stay on. 'My company has been trying to recruit people at fairs recently but we always seem short-staffed.' The labour shortage is particularly acute in the catering sector. Shen Xinghong, who has run an eatery in eastern Beijing's Chaoyang district for four years, has been looking for waiters for the past six months. 'Two girls resigned earlier this year and I haven't been able to find new staff since,' Mr Shen said. 'I don't know what is wrong. This didn't happen last year and there were plenty of applicants two years ago.' The restaurant employs six women from Hebei , Henan and Anhui, offering free accommodation and 450 yuan per month. At the Sichuan restaurant next door, inexperienced staff can expect 400 yuan per month. One waitress complained that employees had to live in cramped dormitories and were required to work 13-hour days. Analysts say the growing shortage of migrant workers, coupled with similar reports from the Pearl River Delta, does not indicate a shift from a labour to capital-intensive economy. Shen Minggao , of Peking University's China Centre for Economic Research, said there was still an excess of workers in the countryside and the higher salaries did not reflect a change in demand. 'Even though labour is abundant, it does not mean salaries should be as low as they are now,' Professor Shen said. In the past, migrant workers were attracted to urban areas for any job to make money. But as their lives improved, many preferred to return home. In the third quarter of this year, just more than 4 million people were in the labour market nationwide, 70,000 less than in the previous quarter, competing for the 3.8 million available jobs, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The figures indicate that as the economy grew, the gap between applicants and vacancies closed. In Beijing, for every 10 job seekers, there were 10.4 vacancies on average in the first half of this year. The shortfall widened to 20,000 vacancies in the third quarter.