Over the past few years, China has made great strides and progress in increasing and stabilising employment. This is especially impressive due to the increasing trade animosity with other nations such as the US. The trade war didn’t really help anyone either.
While China’s efforts are certainly impressive, pressure still exists with an imbalanced regional employment situation, discrimination in the job market and challenges from new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), a recent report showed.
Said report was released during the 12th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress. It showed that pressure on the country’s labour market is relatively high while the overall figure for the working-age population is still high.
The report showed that China’s current working-age population, which is 16-59 years old, sits at around nearly 900 million workers. However, since 2012 there has been a noticeable decline in these numbers. With the consistency of the decline, it is expected that these worker numbers will drop to around 800 million by 2035.
With such a large workforce on hand, combined with a relatively high number of registered unemployed in urban areas, China is in for a rough road ahead in terms of employment.
For various reasons, there are some fairly obvious regional disparities in employment. Due to resource depletion, de-capacity efforts and restructuring of state-owned enterprises, the drain is more obvious in North-eastern China. However, in Eastern China, demand for labour is skyrocketing and unemployment remains quite low in comparison.
Additionally, less developed regions still face increased difficulty in attracting and retaining labour. This is especially true since the government has a tendency to designate specific cities and areas as development and technological hubs; often causing the migration of skilled labour.
Moreover, employment discrimination still remains a problem in certain parts of China. Some employer have been known to refuse the recruitment of the disabled or unmarried. Gender discrimination is also a problem with certain employers advertising positions for men only, or change the employment requirements to prevent women and disabled people from competing for certain positions.
With the ever increasing proliferation of technology, application of new innovations such as autonomous robots, drones, and AI have also begun to replace human labour in certain jobs, especially with regards to simple tasks requiring repetitive and tedious labour. This has resulted in a reduction of employment in the short term. At present, manufacturing workers and bank tellers are most affected, the report said.
However, such technology will result in the creation of new jobs in the near future due to the limitations of current robotics and the skills needed to maintain and operate such complex equipment.
Despite the complicated situation, China still managed to achieve impressive numbers and progress with regards to employment. According to a report from the Xinhua News Agency, approximately 8.67million new urban jobs were created during the first seven months of 2019.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on August 20 stressed the importance and need of stabilising employment, noting that employment is pivotal to people’s wellbeing, and that governments should realise the arduousness of job creation and prioritise stable employment.