China’s job market will go on thriving amid trade row

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/20 18:43:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

Prolonged trade anxiety and its resultant impact on global economic activity have yet to, and will likely not, deal a big blow to China's job market. 

The trade woes have at the most led to a labor market shift toward the services sector, notably internet-based flexible work options. 

A resilient job market and sizzling stock prices have arguably underpinned the reckless moves from US President Donald Trump's administration to subdue open trade and globalization. Signaling that trade tensions with China have inevitably backfired and weighed on one of the two prongs shielding the Trump administration from the trade war fallout, the number of people applying for unemployment benefits in the week which ended on November 9 rose to a nearly five-month high, per US government data.

In comparison, the Chinese job market has proved to be more resilient in spite of the tariff rows. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China created 11.93 million new urban jobs in the first 10 months of the year, achieving the full-year goal of 11 million new jobs two months ahead of schedule.

Additionally, surveyed urban unemployment rates nationwide edged down 0.1 percentage points to 5.1 percent in October, well within the full-year goal of around 5.5 percent.

The numbers surely speak for themselves. This means the nation's "employment-first" policy, elevated to a macro policy for the first time this year, has proved effective in steadying the job market.

It is worth pointing out that the statistics seem to hint at increased job creation in the nation's growing services sector, offsetting the inevitable job losses in the lower-end segment of the manufacturing sector amid the trade frictions.

Tech savviness in the world's largest internet market has seemingly served as a catalyst for creating everyday-life-related jobs. Behind the online shopping spree that resulted in new sales records on this year's Singles' Day is a bustling stream of delivery workers. The nation's booming internet economy has incubated a massive workforce of food delivery workers and ride-hailing drivers.

The phenomenon is not restricted to urban areas and full-time employment, an indication of a stronger-than-expected hiring landscape.

Findings from a recent survey conducted by the township service arm of Chinese Craigslist-like classifieds site together with Tsinghua University revealed that more than one-third of the workforce in Chinese counties live on income from their principal occupation. The number of people earning money from part-time work, including pure part-timers and those with both principal and part-time work, accounts for 52.27 percent of the total workforce. Notably, 35.11 percent of part-time jobs in the nation's counties are internet-based, including ride-hailing, food delivery and online retailing services. 

Interestingly, the survey results revealed that female part-timers account for 52.22 percent of the entire part-time workforce. This suggests the brisk part-time job market thanks to the nation's mobile internet boom has provided women in rural areas with much-needed opportunities to work flexibly.

With the Chinese economy now underpinned by domestic consumption - final consumption contributed 60.5 percent to GDP growth in the first three quarters - a multitude of services jobs catering to the needs of domestic consumers has been created and many more job vacancies are expected in the future. In this sense, the job market is likely more resilient than the official figures have suggested. 

On top of that, the government's continued efforts to ramp up vocational training are also set to give a boost to the job market. 

In a new move, 14 government departments including the Ministry of Education unveiled an action plan on Monday to offer training programs to over 50 million people per annum by 2022. Vocational schools are required to launch skill-upgrading programs for people at work. These will be special programs enabling key groups to secure employment or start businesses, allowing for those made redundant to find new jobs.

Additionally, vocational schools will also be pushed to collaborate with businesses in offering skill-training courses targeting emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing. 

All these efforts, it is believed, will add to the job-market strength that has already been built up in China.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]

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