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Work from home may go on, experts say

By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-13 07:39
The job market has gradually rebounded as the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic subsides in China. [Photo/Sipa]

The job market has gradually rebounded as the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic subsides in China, while flexible workplace arrangements, which have become prevalent over the past two months, may continue, industry observers said.

In March, the number of job applications increased by 39 percent year-on-year, while recruitment notices rose 21 percent, according to data from LinkedIn, a professional networking site based in the United States. LinkedIn also reported that small and medium-sized enterprises showed the most enthusiasm in seeking employees.

Such figures were in sharp contrast with those in early February, when the country was severely affected by the outbreak. The number of newly posted job applications fell 35 percent year-on year that month and the number of recruitment notices by 25 percent.

The number of job recruitment notices from enterprises with fewer than 200 employees plunged by 83 percent in early February.

The fitness and beauty, transportation and logistics, construction, education, and finance sectors were the top recruiters in March, while job applicants were most interested in the retail and consumption industries, though the number recruitment notices in those sectors had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The figures were shared during a live online broadcast last week when industry insiders discussed opportunities related to the economy, business and the workplace in China during and after the pandemic.

Flexible workplace arrangements, including working from home, may continue even after the pandemic, experts said during the broadcast, jointly hosted by FTChinese.com and LinkedIn.

Based on those arrangements, company managers can focus on transforming their human resource management models from being work attendance-oriented to task-oriented, as well as establishing new models of team management and employee performance appraisal, the experts said.

LinkedIn data showed that users' searches for "telecommuting" soared by 260 percent year-on-year over the past two months. Statistics from companies in China also showed that more than 60 percent of people in the workplace had experience in telecommuting.

"More flexible working hours and telecommuting, which provide employees with more freedom to achieve a work-life balance … will become a trend in the future," said Lu Jian, president of LinkedIn China. "New technologies, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, may empower such a trend."

Experts also noted that a rising number of working people were seeking a side occupation or looking to learn a survival skill during the pandemic.

A LinkedIn report published around Women's Day early last month showed that women, especially working mothers, showed a stronger interest in those areas and might benefit more from the trend than their male counterparts.

He Fan, an economics professor from the Antai College of Economics and Management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said the catering, tourism and transportation sectors were greatly affected by the outbreak but may rebound after the pandemic fades away.

He predicted that economic trends over the next three years will include the rapid growth of local economic chains integrating both supply and demand and a more stay-at-home lifestyle.

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