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Government moves to reverse staffing shortfalls

By LI HONGYANG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-03-22 09:11
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Reports and surveys show that China has an acute shortage of blue-collar workers.

In response, the central government is encouraging university graduates to join their ranks to raise the sector's overall quality.

In July, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security released a list of occupations that suffer from severe staff member shortages.

It showed that the service and manufacturing sectors accounted for 77 percent of the shortfall, with salespeople, couriers, waiters, security guards, cleaners, welders and domestic helpers topping the list.

For example, the domestic service sector has seen an imbalance in supply and demand as a result of the aging population and the implementation of the second-child policy.

A 2019 report by online recruitment platform said continued market growth will see the shortfall in domestic helpers reach 30 million by next year and the sector's value will rise to trillions of yuan.

To narrow the gap, the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a 2019 guideline on the promotion of quality and the expansion of the domestic service sector.

It said businesses must improve the pre-work training system and colleges and universities must establish majors related to domestic service to raise the number of qualified practitioners.

To help achieve those goals, the Ministry of Education told a 2019 news conference that it would guide and encourage the establishment of domestic science majors in at least one technical school or university in each province.

Tianjin Normal University, Jilin Agricultural University in Changchun, the provincial capital, and Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital, already offer such courses.

"This major does not simply mean housekeeping services, but is more about management," Wu Ying, dean of the College of Home Economics at Jilin Agricultural University, told Beijing News in May.

"As the COVID-19 epidemic winds down, demand for domestic services is rising. However, the problem of the low entry threshold due to the inadequate training system has resulted in a poor environment and a huge talent gap."

The shortage means manual work is no longer poorly paid.

In November, the Data Center of the China Internet, an independent platform in Beijing, released a report on blue-collar employment and living conditions. It showed that 38 percent of delivery workers and 43 percent of car-hailing drivers earned an average monthly salary of 9,000 yuan ($1,380), more than many fresh college graduates.

Meanwhile, more graduates are displaying an interest in joining the blue-collar group.

A survey that leading online delivery platform Meituan conducted among its delivery riders in 2019 said 3 percent of the 118,000 respondents had a bachelor's and 1 percent held a master's.

The DCCI's report said that even as the country's labor force declines, the general level of education is rising.

It added that incomes for new blue-collars are becoming increasingly attractive amid the development of new businesses in the modern web era, so more graduates are likely to be drawn to manual occupations.


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