Guangdong, the largest export province in the mainland, is expected to face a shortage of one million low-skilled workers this year. About 70 per cent of enterprises in the Pearl River Delta said they had difficulty hiring labour, the Guangdong statistics bureau said. 'Rapid economic growth and increasing exports lead to corporate expansion ... The increase of labour in the region cannot catch up with the growing number of enterprises,' it said in an article on the website of the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Low salaries and poor welfare also would drive workers away from repetitive factory jobs, the bureau said. An average worker earns about 1,000 yuan a month. The bureau interviewed 329 enterprises in the Pearl River Delta at the end of last year, with responses indicating the structural labour shortage 'will go on for a while', especially in cities such as Dongguan, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Tony Wu, an executive director of toymaker Smart Union Group, said salaries had increased by more than 10 per cent this year in a bid to lure labour. The company had failed to fill 20 per cent of vacancies during the peak season between May and October at its production plant in Dongguan. 'It's been a headache to hire workers these days. The problem is getting more serious,' Mr Wu said. He said the firm would increase incentives and improve the working environment to retain workers in the short term but would push ahead with automation to improve efficiency in the near future to cope with the labour shortage. 'We're also considering relocating part of the manufacturing facilities to northern Guangdong, such as in Qingyuan,' he said. Hu Wenbin, the chief of investment of Guangdong Donlim Kitchen Group, said the company did not yet have an acute labour shortage at its plant in Shunde. His factory raised salaries by about 8 per cent this year to retain workers. Guangdong, accounting for 32 per cent of the country's export value, is the largest export province. According to the Ministry of Commerce, the value of its exports reached US$67.26 billion in the first five months of last year, up 24.6 per cent year on year.