Survey shows China’s job market still out of kilter

By Jennifer Cheung

On Monday 9 April more than 200 college graduates applied for 20 job openings as garbage sorters in Guangzhou. By contrast, according to the latest national job market data in China, there were on average only 100 applicants for 218 jobs as senior technicians in the first quarter of this year.

Despite the growing demand for senior technicians, up 47 percent from the previous quarter, the number of applicants actually declined slightly over the quarter. The main reasons for the low take up for such skilled positions were low salary, unsatisfactory working conditions and lack of social status. The 2011 salary guidelines for the prosperous coastal city of Ningbo noted that the average monthly salary for a senior technician was around 5,000 yuan, about the same as an administrative officer or office secretary.

The garbage sorters in Guangzhou could earn just as much, in excess of 4,000 yuan a month, which, as one applicant told the China Daily, is “is more than what many migrant workers in the city earn.”

Moreover, he explained, because the city government has made refuse recycling a high priority: “Garbage sorters are government employees, who can enjoy stable income and other social benefits."

The China Human Resources Market Information Monitoring Center’s quarterly survey of the labour market showed that migrant workers accounted for 39 percent of all job seekers in the first quarter of 2012. And given that younger migrant workers in particular tend to change jobs on a regular basis, analysts say this has had a significant impact on the stability of the labour market.

Chen Xiaojun, head of the Ningxia Employment and Entrepreneurship Service Bureau, for example, told the Legal Daily that because young migrant workers frequently change jobs, enterprises are not willing to invest in training or in sustaining employee relations. Consequently, they don’t have stable and skilled workers to rely on and have to constantly look for new workers. This vicious cycle has to some extent exacerbated the existing shortage of skilled labour, he said.

On a macro-level however, the supply and demand for labour was generally in equilibrium during the first quarter, suggesting the economy was relatively stable. The manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and hospitality sectors were the top three job generators in the quarter. The manufacturing sector alone created over 36 percent of new jobs, followed by wholesale and retail (14 percent), and hospitality (13 percent). The number of jobs in the manufacturing sector grew by 58,000, or over 41 percent from the fourth quarter last year and up four per cent on a yearly basis.

There was a noticeable shift in job creation away from the coastal regions towards inland provinces. The number of jobs in China’s central provinces grew by 38 percent compared with the previous quarter. There was 24 percent growth in the western regions but only 20 percent growth in eastern coastal regions.

Domestically-owned private firms generated 74 percent of the new jobs in the first quarter, while state-owned enterprises only contributed to three percent of the growth. In contrast, foreign-invested firms created close to nine percent of the jobs and Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan invested firms, seven percent.

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