China’s View On The Future Of Work

Automation, artificial intelligence( A.I.) and digital platforms are transforming the essence of employment as we know it. Understanding these trends can support policy makers, business leaders, and workers prepare for the future.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), China’s Renmin University and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) have begun exploring how China will be affected by the developments in the world of employment due to technological developments, shifts in economy and changing dynamics of macro-economic factors.

While digitalized technologies like robotics, additive manufacturing(AM), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are replacing certain tasks within certain sectors and changing workplace relationships, they are also creating the need for different types of workers and generating new jobs and even new sectors in China.

“Technology has certainly challenged the need for certain types of workers; at the same time new windows of opportunities are emerging,” said Hao Jianbin, Senior Expert of Policy Research Department of the Alibaba Group. “The rise of e-commerce in China has resulted in significant expansion of jobs related to logistics and delivery as well as opportunities for entrepreneurship. Critically, delivery tasks provide jobs to workers from rural areas.” A report released from Alibaba in March 2016 displays that the company provides more than 15 million jobs for online shop owners and indirectly created more than 30 million employment opportunities (ILO, 2016).

On the other hand, other jobs will be unavoidably displaced. The need for differentiating employment opportunities should play a critical role in mitigating potential risks related to the changes in the labor market.

Chinese people are the most optimistic about the impact of A.I. on employment. People in China feel positive about future IT developments and their career. 65 percent of the Chinese population think that artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will create job opportunities in the next five to 10 years (CNBC, 2018).

Attitudes to job prospects in China overtake the global average.  Only 29 percent of 20,000 people across 10 countries surveyed by agency group Dentsu Aegis Network agree that emerging technologies would create new jobs. See the video here:

China is profoundly investing in IT. Its government said that it wants to be a 1 trillion yuan ($147.7 billion) world leader in AI by 2030, and said in January that it will build a state-backed $2.1 billion AI research and development park to house 400 tech businesses.

Two policy plans are the expression of that determination: the Made in China(MIC 2025) Plan, and China’s Internet Plus (IP) Plan both seek to promote innovation-driven development through robots, 3D printing, Big Data, and the integration of manufacturing and services through the mobile Internet (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2016).

Last summer, Dentsu Aegis conducted an online survey with 20,000 participants in Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, the U.S. and the U.K. The company used a combination of survey data and modeling by consultancy Oxford Economics to create its Digital Society Index.

‘Digital Society Index’

A ranking of the IT savviness of the population:
  1. U.K.
  2. U.S.
  3. China
  4. Germany
  5. France
  6. Australia
  7. Spain
  8. Italy
  9. Japan

In addition to the efforts to digitally educate and advance their local population, China is making significant efforts in attracting international talent and securing the diversity of skill sets and experience among its workforce.

The country aims to become Asia’s top destination for international students by 2020, targeting 500,000 foreign students enrolled per year by then.

According to a January circular issued by Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Education, international students with a postgraduate degree or higher from Chinese or “well-known” foreign universities can be offered employment within a year after graduation (CDIC, 2017).

Applicants should be in good healthy, have no criminal record, obtain a B grade average (or 80 out of a 100-point scale), have a job offer related to the major of study and with an income no lower than the local average.Successful applicants will be given a one-year work permit, which can be extended to no more than five at renewal.

Foreign students started taking advantage of the new policy and universities began opening job search fairs which are always packed with job seekers and multinationals like Huawei. The young graduates have been enthusiastic to learn Mandarin more than ever. The interest of a Chinese job is not restricted to the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

To open its market, China has also been simplifying the residence and entry policies for internationals. Last year, 1,576 foreigners obtained permanent residence in China, rising 163 percent over the previous year. Foreigners with permanent residence will enjoy the same rights as Chinese citizens in areas such as investment, housing purchases and schooling, in addition to other rights.

Photo Credit Andy Kelly