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Workforce to keep growing in coming years

By Chen Xin | China Daily | Updated: 2013-01-26 07:35

The top labor authority said on Friday that China's labor supply will continue to rise, despite the fact that the working-age population is decreasing.

"Although the number of new people of working age is decreasing, China's workforce will keep increasing in the coming decade, especially in the coming years," Yin Chengji, a spokesman for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, told a news conference.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country's working-age population stopped rising in 2012 after seeing its first-ever decrease of 3.45 million from 2011.

The population aged between 15 and 59 stood at some 937 million at the end of 2012, accounting for 69.2 percent of the total population, a 0.6 percentage point decrease from the previous year, the bureau said.

It means that the country's demographic dividend - the point at which the largest section of society is of working age and the dependency ratio is low - peaked in 2011.

Yin said he believed the labor supply will keep rising, partly because it usually takes four to six years to enter the job market after reaching working age.

Another reason is that more training, urbanization and the upgrade of industry and technology will help laborers flow from low-end industries to more technology-intensive ones, he said.

"That would, to some extent, increase the labor supply and help prolong the demographic dividend," said Yin.

Wang Guangzhou, a researcher at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the total working-age population directly affects the labor supply.

"From a statistical point of view, a decreasing working-age population leads to a deceasing labor supply," he said.

Wang predicted that China's population aged between 15 and 64 is about to fall by 3.4 million this year and by some 5 million each year between 2014 and 2018.

Li Shi, an economist with Beijing Normal University, said one way to offset a decreasing working-age population is to raise the retirement age.

"China's retirement age is comparatively low. Raising the retirement age would produce a bigger workforce and ease pension pressure," he said.

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