context: Demographic trends are shrinking the labour force. Future workers will need the skills to operate and maintain automated production lines if China is to implement Made in China 2025 and move up the global value chain. This will be a challenge with worrisome rural high-school drop-out rates and no well-funded top-level action plan.

The state needs to step up support for professional training and talent cultivation lest the talent shortage inhibit industrial upgrading, argues 21st Century Business Herald, citing a publication by Peking University Centre for New Structure Economics (CNSE) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI). As China runs out of cheap labour and input materials it is becoming less attractive for labour-intensive manufacturing, making outsourcing inevitable, concludes the publication. Unlike Japan or Germany, China has enough workers—they just need to acquire the right skills. With appropriate policy guidance, enterprises will be able to adapt to outsourcing and upgrade their production, argues 21st Century Business Herald.

China does not lack innovation talent but is missing institutions and mechanisms to develop and capitalise on this potential, agrees The Paper, citing Yao Yang 姚洋 Pekin University National School of Development dean. Yao recommends

  • extending compulsory education from nine to 12 years
  • expanding secondary education, especially in rural regions, where high-school drop-out rates are alarming

The manufacturing industry is to employ 62 million trained workers by 2025, but faces a lack of almost 30 million people, according to ‘Manufacturing industry talent development guidelines’ from Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Ministry of Education (MoE) and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS). Automation, software and system control engineers are needed most, adds Li Shaoyuan 李少远 Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Electronic Information and Engineering vice director.