65 years and over: 9.1%
Life expectancy at birth: 74.8 years
Population in 2050: 1.30bn
This year the stationmaster received a surprise. He had prepared more than 100 extra trains to cope with the expected rise in passengers, as he did every year. However, this time only a tenth of the expected number of tickets were sold. The inland provinces claim that they themselves are short of labour and have none to meet the demand of coastal factories.
At the same time, Foxconn, the giant supplier of Apple products, having already tripled its employees' salary over the past six years, has announced new welfare package for its production line workers. But this seems still not enough to attract the young employees needed to man the company's assembly lines.
A sharp decrease in the supply of cheap labour is now a matter of fact in China. The national census shows that its working-age population reached a peak in 2010 at 70 per cent of the total population. Last year, for the first time, China's total working-age population decreased by 3 million. The peak moment of enjoying the Chinese demographic dividend -- when the ratio of working-age people to dependents is highest -- has passed. However, even if the current one-child policy remains in force, it will take at least another 10 to 15 years for China's demographic window of opportunity to close, when the working-age population will account for less than 55 per cent of total. By then, China's labour supply position may not be so gloomy. Another window of opportunity is going to open.
It is well known that the Chinese are investing enormously in education. Between 2011-2015, China's annual public expenditure in education will account for four per cent of GDP, not including the millions of 'tiger mothers' who are planning to spend generously for out-of-school classes and overseas education. China's working-age population in 2000 had on average less than eight years of schooling. By 2015, those entering the job market will have an average of 13.3 years of schooling.
At the higher end of labour supply, in 2010 only eight per cent of China's working-age population had tertiary education. However, according to China's long-term strategy on education, a learning society is to be built by 2020. By then up to 20 per cent of the working-age population will have tertiary education, which is 140 million people, equivalent to the population of
Earlier this year, while blue-collar workers were experiencing rising demand for their services, college graduates were also looking for jobs. Each year 6 million to 7 million graduates enter the job market, but more than 30 per cent of them do not find jobs in the first year after leaving campus. China's
The labour problem in China is an issue, but not such an urgent one that people have to seriously discuss the possibility that the Chinese may get old before they get rich. The real difficulty is rather the mismatch in the younger generation between expectation and qualification.
Nowadays, the 1980s and 1990s generations have higher expectations for their career path as well as their salary. The lowpaid blue-collar positions where their parents have worked over the past three decades are far less attractive to the second generation of migrant workers. But better paid jobs require higher qualifications and suitable training, which even current college graduates may not be able to meet.
What about the future? According to the long-term vision set up by the
According to UN Population Division's prediction, China's population growth will finally stop at 1.39 billion at around 2030. By then the 'qualitative' demographic dividend will also have reached its limit. So here is the ultimate question.
- India's Neglected Generation
- Can Taiwan Pull China Toward Democracy?
- America's Pivot to Asia a Misguided One
- China's Low-Profile Imperialism
- Dicing with Death Penalties in Indonesia
- Afghanistan: Talking to the Taliban
- A Costly Effort in Afghanistan
- Responsibility for Asian Sweatshop Safety Lies with Us, Too
- Asian Sweatshops: A Floor of Decency
- China and North Korea: A Tangled Partnership
- North Korea Following a Well-Worn Pattern
- The Real North Korea
- Saber-Rattling on the Korean Peninsula
- Japan under Shinzo Abe: Too Nationalist for the Rest of Asia?
- A Legacy of Rogues in Afghanistan
- Afghanistan: Narco-State Building
- Afghanistan: Confronting University Campus Trouble Makers
- Balochistan: Pakistan's Next Headache?
- China a Long Way from Gaining World's Trust
- China's Bulging Piggy Banks
- China: Cheap Labor is Becoming Scarce
- India: Where Girls are in Short Supply
- Japan: And Then There Was One
- Asian Little Tigers have Fewer Cubs
- Astana, The Showcase Capital of Kazakhstan
- Bizarre Belligerence on the Korean Peninsula
- Considering a Departure in North Korea's Strategy
- United States, South Korea Ready to Counter North Korean Aggression
- Philippines Hopes Better Credit Rating Will Draw Investors
- Basketball Diplomacy, Pyongyang Style
- Is International Pressure Failing in Sri Lanka?
- Georgia's Armed Forces: Army of the All or Army of the Few?
- China Begins Efforts to Lift Veil on Officials' Assets
- New Internet Regulations Provide Window into North Korea
- New Faces, Old Tensions in East Asia
(c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc. "China: Cheap Labor is Becoming Scarce"