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Blue-collar workers see better pay, rights

Development of digital economy leads to shift from traditional jobs

By Cheng Si | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-05 09:05
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Blue-collar workers have seen improving pay and more protection of their working rights in recent years, as their increasing numbers and the important role they play in society have attracted support from the government and higher respect from the public.

A recent report by China's research center on new forms of employment at Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing shows that blue-collar workers saw their average pay grow from 2,684 yuan ($373) a month in 2012 to 6,043 yuan last year. Their monthly average grew 1.85 times in real terms after adjusting for inflation.

The report also highlighted that the emergence and development of the digital economy have expanded the definition of "blue-collar worker", with platform-based or flexible jobs such as deliveryman and ride-hailing driver included in the group, in addition to those traditionally defined as blue-collar workers in secondary and service industries.

The nation has not released an official tally of blue-collar workers, but some think tanks and data analysis centers such as Tencent's Penguin Intelligence and China International Intellectech have cited a number "over 400 million", China Economic Weekly reported.

The monthly income gap between blue- and white-collar workers has also narrowed in the past 10 years. According to the report, the average monthly salary of white-collar workers was 2.4 times higher than blue-collar workers in 2012, but that dropped to 1.39 last year.

"I think the job is now much more welcomed by people compared with when I took the job five years ago," said a food deliveryman surnamed Liao.

He said he had been working at a factory in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, when he took the job as a food deliveryman in early 2019.

"My family members, especially my father, thought I was crazy to quit my previous job, but I just wanted to earn more money," he said. "I've been in some embarrassing situations, like a customer rolling their eyes at me several years ago.

"I thought the job was not that respectable, even though it had better income than my previous job. The situation has improved in the past few years as more people have taken such jobs and the government has paid more attention to us."

According to the report, more people are choosing to become blue-collar workers out of interest and for alluring salaries, thanks to people's changing views of employment and the improving pay and social status of blue-collar workers.

Zhang Chenggang, director of the China research center on new forms of employment, said the digital economy has incubated many new forms of employment, which has quickened the shift from traditional blue-collar work to working in the platform-based economy.

He said that the narrowing gap in pay and employment quality between white- and blue-collar workers reflects the diversity and maturity of the job market. And with changes in labor supply and the advancement of digital technology and the platform economy, blue-collar workers will get better social recognition and pay in the future.

The central government has also worked to secure the group's more sustainable development.

For example, seven central departments, including the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the National Development and Reform Commission and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, recently targeted the provision of about 5 million highly skilled people in modern manufacturing and services industries by 2026.

They said highly skilled workers, those with outstanding performance and those who have tackled manufacturing problems can receive exceptional promotions. Cash incentives or equity awards can also be given to skilled workers.


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