III. Improving the Quality of the Workforce
The Chinese government has introduced the system of paying attention both to school diplomas and professional qualification certificates, trying many ways to promote various kinds of educational and training programs to improve the comprehensive capacity of people of working age to obtain employment, to start a business or to adapt to occupational changes.
Promoting various kinds of educational programs
— Making primary and middle school education available to all children. In 2003, the attendance rate of school-age children in primary schools was 98.6 percent, and the gross enrolment rate of junior middle schools was 92.7 percent.
There were altogether 31,900 senior middle schools and their equivalents (including ordinary senior middle schools, vocational senior middle schools, senior middle schools for adults, ordinary polytechnic schools, polytechnic schools for adults, and technical schools), with an enrolment of 32.41 million students and a gross enrolment rate of 43.8 percent. Among these, there were 14,800 schools of secondary vocational education (including vocational senior middle schools, ordinary polytechnic schools, polytechnic schools for adults, and technical schools), with 12.54 million students altogether.
— Developing higher education and adult education. In 2003, there were 19 million students in institutions of higher learning, with the gross enrolment rate reaching 17 percent, and the number of people having finished studies at various kinds of non-degree adult courses offered by schools of different types throughout the country totaled 74.36 million. At present, 58.44 million people are attending training classes of every description. Of these, the vocational technical schools trained 72.42 million people throughout the year. In 2003, there were 70,000 non-governmental schools of different types and at various levels, with the total number of students reaching 14.16 million.
Establishing a vocational training system
Vocational training in China includes pre-employment training, training for people transferred to new occupations, apprentice training and on-the-job training, covering elementary, intermediary, and advanced vocational qualification training for technicians and other types of training to help people adapt to different job requirements.
By developing higher vocational institutions, advanced technical schools, secondary polytechnic schools, technical schools, employment training centers, non-governmental vocational training institutions and enterprises employees' training centers, the state endeavors to develop an all-round and multi-level national system of vocational education and training and strengthen training for the new urban workforce, laid-off workers, rural migrant workers and on-the-job employees.
Technical schools are comprehensive vocational training bases mainly engaged in training skilled workers, while offering different types of long- or short-term training programs. Employment training centers are bases for training new workforce and laid-off people, mainly offering teaching in practical skills and helping the trainees to adapt to different job requirements.
By the end of 2003, there were altogether 3,167 technical schools in China (including 274 on the advanced level), with a total of 1.91 million students at school, and these schools also offered different types of training to 2.2 million people from various social sectors. There were 3,465 governmental employment training centers and 17,350 non-governmental training institutions throughout the country in 2003, offering training to 10.71 million people throughout the year.
— Strengthening pre-employment training. China has fully adopted the workforce preparation system, and widely established and implemented the system of training for new workforce before employment. Thus, a vocational training network covering both urban and rural areas has been put in place, making it possible for most of the new urban workers to receive work preparation training, and for new rural laborers, especially non-agricultural laborers and rural migrant workers in towns and cities gradually to be included in the work preparation training program. In 2003, some 1.26 million urban junior and senior middle school graduates who were unable to enter schools for further studies received such training.
— Strengthening labor skill training. In 2002, the state carried out a widespread skill-enhancement action by implementing a Plan for Strengthening Vocational Training to Improve Employment Qualifications and a National Project for Training Highly Skilled Personnel. Meanwhile, a program for training 500,000 new technicians in three years was also launched. All these were aimed at cultivating rapidly a large number of skilled workers, especially workers with advanced skills, so as to improve the employment qualifications, work competence and job-switching capacity of the workforce as a whole.
In this process, emphasis was laid on training in new techniques, materials, technology and equipment to meet the urgent needs of enterprises for people with specialized skills and techniques, multi-skilled talents, and people with both the needed knowledge and skills for the development of new and high technology. Of all the enterprise employees in China, 34 million received job-related skill training in 2003.
— Strengthening reemployment training. The Chinese government has made reemployment training a regular system to help laid-off workers to find new jobs. From 1998 to 2000, the government carried out the Three-Year Plan for Training 10 Million Laid-off Workers for Reemployment.
In these three years, 13 million laid-offs received training, of whom 65 percent found new jobs. On the basis of summarizing the experience gained in the first phase, the second phase of the plan was then implemented. From 2001 to 2003, some 15.3 million laid-off workers attended reemployment training programs offered in various flexible ways.
Since 1998, training in starting up businesses has been launched in 30 cities throughout the country. This is aimed at substantially enhancing the ability of laid-off workers to engage in individual and private sectors of the economy or start small businesses by means of training and guidance, policy consultation and follow-up service.
Vocational training institutions run by the trade union organizations at different levels have run training courses for 3.6 million laid-off workers. In 2003, some 280,000 people received training in starting their own businesses, about 140,000 of whom have successfully started their own businesses or become self-employed.
— Developing long-distance training. The Chinese government is vigorously promoting long-distance training programs by means of information network and satellite data transmission technology. The government has expedited the formulation and implementation of an overall plan for long-distance vocational training, with a view to steadily bringing into shape a socialized and open training network.
Implementing the vocational qualification certificate system in an all-round way
Since China adopted the vocational qualification certificate system in 1994, relevant laws and regulations as well as a work system have been established initially for its application. In 1999, the Chinese government called upon all social sectors to adopt the system of paying attention both to school diplomas and vocational qualification certificates. In 2000, the framework of the employment permission system was preliminarily set up.
At present, China has basically set up a vocational qualification training system of five levels – from elementary-, intermediate- and advanced-grade skilled workers to technicians and senior technicians – that corresponds to the state vocational qualification standards and forms an important part of a life-long learning system for workers. Now, there are some 80,000 vocational skill evaluation institutions and 180,000 people engaged in vocational skill evaluation and examination in China. The average pass rate of vocational skill examinations is 84 percent, and 45 million vocational qualification certificates have been issued.
Launching skill competitions and activities honoring technical experts
Skill competitions in China are held at the national, provincial and city levels. The national-level competition is held every other year. Meanwhile, the government, trade unions and enterprises work in close cooperation to hold vocational skill competitions within particular trades or enterprises to enhance the vocational skills of workers and staff members. In 2003, some 18 million workers and staff members took part in technical training and skill competitions throughout the country. Since 1995, 10 winners of the "China Grand Skill Award" and 100 "National Technical Experts" have been selected and commended by the state each year.