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Nation sees surge in blue-collar work

Younger generation embraces skilled jobs as tech sector creates new careers

By CHENG SI | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-25 09:15

China's job market is experiencing a surge in blue-collar professions, fueled by the nation's economic transformation and a growing need for skilled workers.

Li Jianghao, a vocational school teacher with 15 years of experience in vehicle maintenance, said skilled workers' pay increases as their skills improve. "Vehicle maintenance requires patience and good skills, and superb skills can earn good pay to support an entire family," Li said.

Li, who now teaches at Jinan Technician College in Hebei province, said he is confident in his students' employment prospects, noting the high demand for blue-collar workers, especially those with technical skills.

This confidence is backed by a recent report from Zhaopin, a major recruitment platform in China.

The report reveals a significant rise in blue-collar job openings in recent years, with corresponding increases in pay. This trend aligns with China's pursuit of high-quality economic development and the modernization of its manufacturing and service sectors.

According to the report, job openings for delivery and logistics personnel have skyrocketed by over 800 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Positions for skilled workers, domestic service staff, drivers and security guards have all seen growth exceeding 200 percent in the same period.

Zhaopin attributes this growing demand to two key factors: the upgrading of China's manufacturing industry and the expanding service sector. National statistics show the service sector contributed 54.6 percent to GDP last year, necessitating a large service sector workforce.

The financial rewards for blue-collar workers are also on the rise. The report indicates an average monthly salary of 7,215 yuan ($994) for blue-collar jobs in major Chinese cities during the first quarter of this year, a 36 percent increase compared to the same period in 2019.

Jobs requiring higher skill sets, such as computer numerical control machine operators in manufacturing, command even higher salaries. The average recruiting pay for CNC operators on Zhaopin's platform was 8,281 yuan a month in the first quarter of this year, compared to around 5,500 yuan for the same period in 2019.

This diversification of roles and improved compensation for blue-collar professions is attracting a younger generation of job seekers. Zhaopin reports a 165 percent increase in applications from people under 25 for blue-collar jobs compared to 2019.

Li Qiang, vice-president of Zhaopin, views the trend as a positive development.

"More young people in blue-collar jobs can alleviate domestic employment pressures while acquiring valuable professional skills and experience, leading to better career prospects," he said.

However, Li acknowledges the remaining challenges. Social recognition for blue-collar jobs and limited promotion opportunities are ongoing concerns.

"The rapid development of smart manufacturing, modern services and the digital economy will create promising career paths for blue-collar workers," he said.

"Additionally, China is actively developing skills evaluation systems to create clearer paths for advancement."

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