Economic Watch: China's digitization injects vitality into employment amid COVID-19

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BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) -- As tourism slumped amid the COVID-19 epidemic, tour guide Wang Pingrong turned herself into a livestreamer and part-time online seller, selling local specialties and tourist souvenirs to customers across the country.

Wang, 35, has been a guide in her hometown of Lijiang, a popular tourist destination in southwest China's Yunnan Province, for eight years. "It feels awesome when you share the beautiful sceneries of your hometown with customers across the world while making a living at the same time," she said.

However, the COVID-19 epidemic hit the tourism industry hard. Unlike many in the industry, Wang has managed to maintain a good income through TikTok, known as Douyin in China, after opening a personal account about two months after the epidemic outbreak.

"Digitization creates more choices and really helps us out," Wang said. When the epidemic suddenly broke out and scenic sites were closed, most tour guides were in a panic and had no idea about how to get through the upcoming tough times. So far, dozens of her peers have joined in as livestreaming salespeople.

The story of Wang offers a glimpse into how China's digital transformation injects vitality into its job market and helps stabilize employment amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

"The rapid advancements in digital technology can help offset the impact of economic slowdown on employment, increase employment flexibility and diversify China's job market," said He Jianhua, former vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Livestreaming salespersons could soon be officially recognized as a specific job type under "network marketer" in China's national directory of job classifications, according to a statement released by the Occupational Skill Testing Authority of China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security last week.

China plans to give official recognition to 10 new occupations, including net marketers, information security testers, blockchain engineering technicians and nucleic acid testers, aiming to promote employment and entrepreneurial activities and to contribute to COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control, according to the statement.

Digitization is among five major trends in China that have been accelerating as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, with many traditional business sectors increasingly embracing digitization, according to a recent report from McKinsey & Company.

Market demands for livestreaming anchors have increased rapidly amid the epidemic. Within one month after the Chinese Lunar New Year of 2020, recruiting for livestreaming job positions surged more than 132 percent year on year, according to a survey by China's leading recruitment company Zhilian Zhaopin.

Along with TikTok, social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo have become a key part of the emerging market for business innovation and job seekers in China.

A recent report by WeChat of Chinese internet giant Tencent and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology showed that the popular instant messaging service WeChat helped directly create around 26 million jobs with its ecosystem including official accounts services, mini-programs and payment service in 2019.

The "interconnectedness" of occupations reflects the accelerating digitization in China, and more new industries, business forms and occupations are being created, providing new growth momentum and opportunities for China's economy, said Gao Min with the Development Research Center of the State Council. Enditem

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