context: ‘Six stabilisations’ were first proposed at the 2018 Q2 Politburo meeting. While ranked as first, the state did not emphasise employment until the March Two Sessions, when ’employment first’ became a macroeconomic priority. The current stress on employment signals persisting downward pressure and, perhaps, a gloomy medium-term economic outlook.

Li Keqiang 李克强 premier held a work seminar in Heilongjiang to discuss employment stabilisation measures on 19 Aug 2019. Calling attention to rising July 2019 unemployment, Li emphasised that employment is the most important public welfare objective and a key priority, considering the labour force growing by 150 million per year and rural transferred labour by 3 million.

Li mentioned three measures

  • implementing supportive policies in the real economy and enlarging effective demand
  • developing new business models and expanding new job types
  • appropriating 100 bn unemployment fund to invest in vocational training, noting the fund can be expanded if used well

Pointing to uncertainty amid trade conflicts and lacking domestic investment, Fu Yifu 付一夫 Suning Institute of Finance senior analyst expects employment will take on huge pressure. Fu suggests massive tax cuts and fairer market environment would enable more job creation in the private economy.

Fu also insists that service industries will absorb more labour force in the future, noting the observed trend of labour transition from agriculture to industry, then finally to service sectors. More economic forms will arise with big data, internet of things and artificial intelligence (AI) maturing, but at the same time, these new technologies could impact conventional jobs.

A Hubei vocational school faculty member told 21st Century Business Herald that his school has expanded the number of admitted students from 3,000 to 5,000, studying automobiles, logistics, ICT and smart mechanical manufacturing, and that the school’s graduates often succeed on the job market. A joint 21st Century Economic Research Centre and Meituan study shows

  • those without any professional training are likely to have 5,000 or below monthly salary
  • those with company-organised professional training will have 10,000 monthly salary or above
  • those with self-paid training will have 15,000 monthly salary or above
  • vocational training certificates have an increasingly direct impact on jobs like fitness coaching or babysitting

21st Century Business Herald also reports rapid job expansion in ‘new economies’ such as food and package delivery.