As China is easing its COVID-19 restrictions in a bid to reduce the impact on its economy and lessen social tensions, it may get an opposite effect as spread of the disease may cause labor shortage. A DigiTimes report on Tuesday indicated that notebook product launches in the first quarter could be affected by current labor shortages in the country.
After China lifted some of its pandemic restrictions, some of Chinese notebook supply chain companies saw infections affected up to 50% of their workers, which resulted in temporary shutdowns of production lines, the report says. This would naturally cause shipments delays, which will eventually affect availability of actual products, such as new laptops that use the latest CPUs and GPUs. The situation with COVID-19 infections and labor shortages is expected to get worse after the Lunar New Year when people get sick or extend their holidays.
Large notebook ODMs — Compal, Inventec, Quanta, and Wistron — have not yet experienced a shortage of components or shortage of workforce. Meanwhile, since large PC OEMs still have some stock to sell and do not expect overwhelming demand in Q1, they did not ask their production partners to increase output in the first quarter. This somewhat mitigates the impact of the COVID-19 infections and vacations. Meanwhile, large PC makers will still suffer from insufficient production capacity and the only question is how this affects the global PC market.
It remains to be seen whether large PC suppliers will opt to delay some of their product launches if their production partners cannot make enough hardware, but this is certainly a possibility. It will be interesting to see whether they decide to prioritize launches of expensive parts that do not sell in very high volumes, or focus on performance mainstream systems that are relatively high volume products.
It should be noted that that only about 10% to 15% of workers may actually be infected, the report says. Meanwhile, many employees call off work since they fear getting infected. This situation will continue until herd immunity in China is reached.