China has recently announced its plans to train up to 14 million migrant workers in vocational programmes over the next two years. This is being done in an effort to combat the effects of an unprecedented job crisis that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns to halt it’s spread.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said that within the coming year, the government aims to train at least 7 million migrant workers under this initiative. They added that the training will involve both migrant workers with jobs and those without; including those who have been newly resettled or returned to their hometowns.

COVID-19 has caused a massive downturn in China’s economy. SMEs in particular have suffered greatly due to their inability to obtain the funding and income needed to survive. Additionally, the pandemic has also affected the over 290 million migrant worker population, many of whom are have been stuck in their hometowns following the New Year Celebrations. Those that were able to return more often than not found themselves without a job to return to as businesses began laying-off workers to cut costs. This has continued to an extent even after China had announced the reopening of its many factories and industries.

China’s unemployment peaked at around 80 million in March, according to estimates, although official figures were much lower. According to UBS, the number of people not working reached 70 to 80 million in March, subsequently falling to between 33 million and 40 million in May, stated a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The new plan calls on rural areas that have seen a large number of unemployed migrant workers return to lead in training, aimed at helping them find jobs locally or start businesses. Local governments have been contacted and advised to seek out different industries that can absorb the laid-off workers. Some of these industries include machinery, construction, catering, and logistics.

Generally, the Chinese government provides limited financial aid to support unemployed workers who meet the required conditions. Unfortunately, such aif often does not cover the migrant population.

In an effort to support laid off workers, China’s Premier Li Keqiang in a visit to Shandong province last week called for unleashing what is being called the “street vendor economy”, referring to allowing people to start street-side small businesses, in a marked shift from past crackdowns on unlicensed retailing in cities.

Li stressed that the migrant workers are an important part of the nation’s economy and should be supported as much as possible. He also stated that the self-employed industry are just as vital; while highlighting the example of the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province, which created 100,000 jobs by supporting 36,000 street stalls, as reported by the South China Morning Post.


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