Guangdong labour authorities have launched an investigation into the influx of illegal foreign workers from Southeast Asia, as experts and officials are debating whether the province should allow foreigners in to do blue-collar labour at a lower cost. A team from the provincial Labour and Human Resources Department, led by two deputy heads, was sent this week to the Pearl River Delta, one of world's most important manufacturing centres, to determine the seriousness of the situation. Gan Wenchuan , chief of the Guangdong Employment Service Bureau, said the province was about to revise management regulations for floating workers, especially the part related to foreign workers, according to the Nanfang Daily, a provincial mouthpiece. 'The Pearl River Delta prospered from creating jobs that attracted the poor from neighbouring countries, just as it had attracted migrant workers from inland provinces at the beginning of the mainland's reform and opening,' Gan was quoted as saying. A Labour Department news office employee declined to give further details about the team's investigation or speculate on any new labour regulations that might result. The department works regularly with other government departments, which includes the Public Security Department, to deal with the illegal foreign labourers, she said. With a huge workforce and strict immigration policies, the mainland is still closed to overseas labourers. But as labour costs have increased in the past few years - partly caused by the new Labour Law, which promises better pay and welfare to migrant workers - more and more manufacturers are likely to employ illegal labourers from Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia. The reason is that they will work for less pay and endure worse working conditions. Xinhua reported that last year Guangdong police had uncovered 13 cases of illegally hired foreign workers and deported 180 workers without work permits. In the first quarter of this year, six cases were handled and 154 people detained. Many labour experts warned that the mainland was about to face an influx of overseas blue-collar labourers and that its laws were out of date and could not address the problem. Zhang Rongfa, a consultant to the Guangdong Labour Institute, suggested that the province should learn from Japan and Hong Kong and partially open its labour market to foreign workers. But Gan and other experts disagreed, saying a simple open policy might trigger not only severe competition between foreign and domestic labourers, but also more social or even ethnic problems. Professor Zheng Zizhen , a labour expert with the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said: 'The enterprises hire illegal foreign workers for lower pay, but the government and the communities will have to deal with their living, family and welfare issues, which are also a price to be paid by the whole society.'