context: NBS data suggests 2019 labour policy is likely to focus on large-scale subsidised vocational education and training programs to mitigate the adverse impact of skills-based technological changes on employment.

Ning Jizhe 宁吉喆 National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) commissioner hosted a press conference on China’s economic performance in 2018. Mainland China’s total population reached 1.40 billion, up 5.3 million y-o-y while total births were 15.23 million, down 2 million y-o-y. The population structure is described as follows

  • by sex
    • male: 713.51 million
    • female: 681.87 million
    • overall male-to-female sex ratio: 104.64
  • by age
    • working-age (16-59) population: 897.29 million (64.3 percent of total)
    • elderly population (60 and older): 249.49 million (17.9 percent)
    • population aged 65 and older: 166.58 million (11.9 percent)
  • by residence
    • urban population: 831.37 million, up 1.79 million y-o-y
    • rural population: 564.01 million, down 1.26 million y-o-y
    • urban population accounted for 59.58 percent of total population, up 1,06 percentage points y-o-y
    • migrants (people not living in their hukou registration place for more than six months): 286 million, down 4.5 million y-o-y
    • floating population: 241 million, down 3.78 million y-o-y

Newly employed people in 2018 were 13.61 million, a population 1.237 times larger than the annual target. In December 2018,

  • urban unemployment rate: 4.9 percent
    • unemployment rate in 31 major cities: 4.7 percent
    • prime age (25-59) unemployment rate: 4.4 percent
  • employed population: 775.86 million
    • 434.19 million in urban areas
  • rural-to-urban migrant workers: 288.36 million, up 1.84 million y-o-y
    • 115.70 million locally employed, up 0.9 percent y-o-y
    • 172.66 million migrant workers, up 0.5 percent y-o-y
    • average income per month: 3,721, up 6.8 percent y-o-y

Ning rejected the idea that China’s demographic dividend is disappearing, thanks to

  • over 700 out of 900 million making up the working-age population stayed in labour force
  • substantial size of rural-to-urban workers (288 million), of which over half entered neighbouring third- and fourth-tier cities
  • 8 million university graduates entering skilled workforce annually

Ning said NBS adopted a new method to estimate unemployment data (based on sample surveys) in 2017 and that recently published unemployment data was ‘reliable’ and ‘in line with global standards’. Ning also argued that there exists both structural unemployment and cyclical unemployment in the labour market, adding that the state should invest in labour force training and skills development to solve employer-employee mismatch.