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Low-skilled jobs top list of labor needs

Cheng Si
Updated: Dec 09,2019 08:08 AM    China Daily

There's a dire shortage of labor available for some positions in the service and manufacturing sectors in China, according to a recent employment list issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

The ministry, for the first time, released a list of 100 professions that have major demand.

Vacancies for sales positions, cashiers, restaurant waiters, security guards and custodial workers topped the list, followed by manufacturing professionals, including lathe operators, welders and porters, according to the ministry.

In June, the National Bureau of Statistics released a report showing that the growth of the migrant worker population had slowed last year for the first time since 2015. There were 288.3 million migrant workers in 2018, indicating slower growth — 0.6 percentage points year-on-year.

"Usually, we believe that sectors closely related to high technology, with a need for skilled labor, face the toughest situation," said Yin Baoming, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Labor and Social Security.

"But it's the same with jobs requiring relatively low skills. They are also key."

He said that the 100 professional categories having the greatest demand — 42 in the service sector and 36 in manufacturing — showed people's increasing pursuit of high-quality service jobs and better working environments.

Chen Lixiang, deputy director of the China Institute of Occupation Research at Peking University, said it boils down to social psychology that parents — especially those who have been or continue to be migrant workers — are unwilling to let their children take jobs that require physical strength but low skills.

"The younger generation themselves also show unwillingness to work at such positions," he said.

The 58 Tongcheng Recruitment Research Institute, a division for 58.com, a classified website, said in a new report that people's stereotype of low-skilled positions and employers' higher requirements may help explain the manpower shortage.

People usually think low-skill workers such as cashiers or salesman labor in poor conditions with low salaries. And that deters people from seeking such positions, the report said.

The low prestige that comes with such jobs also discourages job-seekers, it said.

Also, companies' increasing demands for more skills and their push for higher levels of service quality leads to imbalances between the labor supply and recruitment demand, culminating in a manpower shortage in certain professions because many people are unqualified.

"Take maternity matrons, for example," the report said. "The jobs are usually taken by elderly women with a low education level and low professional skills. However, employers' growing demand for quality workers is intensifying."

Some recently emerging jobs, such as food delivery and Didi driver, have also changed the landscape of the job market and brought manpower shortages to some traditional fields.

Lin Qing, a 23-year-old from Jiangsu province, who worked as a receptionist for a cybercafe in Beijing, quit last year and is now studying for the test to get into a vocational college.

"I felt hopeless after working for the cybercafe for almost three years," she said. "I didn't go to senior high school like my peers, or to college or a university. I worked for restaurants and cafes, but none of these jobs brought me any respect or sense of dignity.

"I want to learn some skills through training courses. I don't want to live a life of hard physical work anymore."

Chen Lixiang, the deputy institute director, said it's important to improve employees' working environments and salaries to lure more workers, and also to offer them training courses to help enhance their skills.

He remains positive about the current labor situation.

"It did exist — this phenomenon that people are reluctant to work at positions such as security guard or in low-skill manufacturing — but both the government and companies are making efforts to promote skills training, which will help ease the problem," he said.

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