Some Chinese firms prioritize hiring people who have had COVID-19

From social media in China
This partly modified image shows a help wanted notice in China that says people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be given priority for hiring.

BEIJING — As an increasingly serious labor shortage has been hitting China due to a massive surge in novel coronavirus infections, some companies are giving priority to hiring those who have recovered from COVID-19.

This is because they believe that the likelihood of being infected again, at least for the time being, is low due to antibodies.

Some have pointed out that this hiring practice has brought about a new form of discrimination, against people who have never been infected.

Earlier this month, a delivery company in inland Henan Province listed these conditions in a help wanted ad to hire two full-time employees: “We are looking for people who have either tested positive or have had COVID-19. Please don’t contact us if you have tested negative. That would be a waste of time.”

A school in the same province looking for seven staff members including cooks and assistants listed in its help wanted ad, “We will give priority to hiring people who have recovered from infection with the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.”

Recently, similar cases have been reported in Chinese media.

In the delivery and restaurant industries, the growing labor shortage has made it difficult for companies to continue business.

An article on Xinhuanet, the online portal of the state-run Xinhua News Agency, said that the probability of people infected with the omicron variant being infected again within three to six months is very low. Accordingly, companies want to hire those who have as low a risk of infection as possible.

Amid an extremely tight labor market, there have even emerged remarks among university students such as, “It would become more advantageous to find a job if you get infected with the novel coronavirus intentionally.”

In mid-December, a famous female singer posted on social media that she “had actively sought infection soon” so as not to affect her scheduled performance at a New Year’s Eve concert. She did get infected. She was also forced to apologize later for her comments due to a flood of criticism.

Behind these actions is the government’s policy of hastening the normalization of economic activities rather than preventing infection. Since the middle of this month, the municipal governments of Shanghai, Chongqing and other cities have issued instructions that asymptomatic or mildly ill patients should return to work even if PCR tests do not confirm a negative result.

Through November, China had adhered to its strict “zero-COVID” policy, the exact opposite situation to the current one. When there was a lockdown in Shanghai this spring, infected people were not allowed to return to work even after testing negative. Amid that policy, some local companies had imposed conditions for hiring, such as, “People with a record of infection cannot apply,” as there were fears that even one infected person would force the entire factory or company to shut down.

The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, which oversees the judiciary and police departments, has been sounding the alarm bell in its official newspaper the Legal Daily saying that employment decisions based on whether a person has tested positive or negative for infection with the novel coronavirus infringe on labor laws and regulations. The commission is desperately working to calm the ongoing situation.