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Four Major Trends Seen in Chinese Job Market
At the end of January and the beginning of February of every year, the most important task for many enterprises is to attract new employees. As soon as the Spring Festival draws to its end, employers start speeding up the pace in seeking suitable employees; at the same time, many people kick off their job-hunting journeys. Once again, the job market is hot. Every indication shows four major trends in this year’s job market.

Trend 1. Employment – an urgent issue in China; experts in finance in high demand

The number of people employed in China will increase by about 10 million this year, according to Li Zhen, vice researcher with the Economic and Social Development Unit at the Institute of Macro-economy of the State Development Planning Commission. At the same time, because of the restructuring of many institutes, the number of laid-off workers across the whole nation will reach 6.5 million. Further, the number of personnel who won’t be rehired by an institution or company after their contracts expire will be 1 million. So, the employment situation in the Chinese job market is still very serious. Meanwhile, the statistic provided by the Beijing Labor and Social Security Bureau shows a 51.78 percent rise from the previous year in unemployment in Beijing, which this year will see 260,000 unemployed.

Tackling the employment issue becomes more urgent in the wake of China’s entry to the WTO, according to a report issued by the Development Research Center of the State Council, which sees with WTO entry an increase in unemployment as well as striking conflicts between market-demand and the number of qualified candidates. In terms of different regions and ownership, very serious unemployment from the beginning of this year is predicted for old industrial bases, small cities in the middle and west part of China, and state-owned enterprises. So far, China is challenged by pressures from its total general population, its total underemployed population and its total elderly population. Among these pressures, the easing of the underemployed is most urgent because it is expected that the total number of unemployed will reach a peak in the coming two years.

Meanwhile, still in demand in China are high-tech talents, talents informed about WTO rules and senior management, and the qualified personnel experienced in law, according to some experts’ analysis. Judging from this year’s situation, the financial experts will be most in demand. According to statistics by the People’s Bank of China, by the end of last September, the number of China-based foreign banks had reached 190. In Beijing, 18 foreign-funded banks have set up branches, and the number of Beijing-based representative offices attached to foreign-funded banks has reached 108. An expert from Asia Bank predicted that in the coming several years, foreign-funded banks will take up at least a 30 percent share in China’s market.

Wang Yuanlong, a researcher with the Institute of International Finance of the Bank of China, indicates that following China’s entry into WTO, financial experts will be even more in demand, with an inevitable trend of employees’ leaving state-owned banks. As with the banking industry, the insurance industry is also in desperate need of finance talents. According to sources, there are already 21 foreign-founded insurance companies in China, outnumbering the state-owned insurance companies. Besides, another 20 insurance companies have also got permission to open branches or joint-ventures in China. Sun Qixiang, director of the Insurance Department of Peking University, said that a lack of talents and the far-fewer-than-enough professional training programs in insurance field will be one of the biggest challenges China’s insurance industry has to face following China’s entry into WTO. One thing is certain that more and more foreign-funded banks or insurance companies will be landing in China. While trying to penetrate China’s market, they will first turn their focus on Chinese finance talents, making these already “hot” finance specialists even more in demand.

Trend 2. A more flexible household registration system; access for specialists eases

In the many high-tech enterprises in Zhongguancun in Beijing, nicknamed China’s Silicon Valley, already some 100,000 employees are working without Beijing hukou [a permanent Beijing residential card]. It can be predicted that the limits that these residential cards set on people’s mobility will be further blurred while the space for people’s mobility will become even wider. Han Guangyao, chief of Beijing Talent Exchange Association and Beijing Talent Service Center, said that the real freedom in talent-flow indicates that market demand rather than any other factor now determines the distribution of human resources in China. In 2002, policies that attract more qualified personnel to meet the market demand will take the place of ones that offer strict control over the influx of people into Beijing; and ones that accord favorable permissions to the qualified with certain conditions will substitute for the planned quota system under the hukou policy. All of these measures will become basic policies in Beijing to attract talents from outside the city. A temporary residential certificate still exists which has become for some almost the same [in terms of privileges] as that of the hukou, It will become a common practice with various styles for specialists to come in and out of the city to fill part-time jobs, share information, cooperate on projects, and introduce new ideas. As for this population in flux, these people don’t need to worry about permanent resident status in Beijing as long as they can justify themselves in the fierce competition.

Trend 3. Chinese and foreign headhunters look for talents; job market opens further

Over 300 foreign headhunting firms exist in China, according to one survey, although they have to appear in public as consultant companies for enterprises’ management or for human resources’ management due to the many restrictions on them imposed by the Chinese government. But from now on, according to the favorable conditions ratified in the Regulation for the Management of Job Market -- co-issued by the Ministry of Personnel and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce -- foreign headhunters can legally open their business by means of running joint-venture companies or by cooperating with local headhunters. Meanwhile, it is expected that more foreign businesses not yet been authorized by the Chinese government will seek to enter China’s market during the initial period after China’s WTO entry. The aim of market-access permission for foreign headhunters is to open the nation’s job market more widely. So far, there are 4,500 various employment service institutes in China, most of which have some relations with the Chinese government. With the implementation of the Regulation for the Management of Job Market and thanks to China’s WTO entry, it is inevitable that a reform is necessary among employment service institutes. Therefore, the year 2002 will be a “reform year” for Chinese human resource service institutes. After China’s WTO entry, the biggest challenge that Chinese employment service institutes have to deal with is to regulate their operational system, so as to make it more in keeping with today’s situation. It can be predicted that after the reform in 2002, some local employment service institutes long attached to the personnel departments of certain government agencies will be totally independent. As for some service institutes for individual industries, they will also independently run their own business, making them more market-oriented. It’s also natural that some less competitive employment service institutes will be kicked out of the arena if they lose their footholds during the fierce competition. Therefore, when foreign headhunters are striving for market share in China as multinational companies, it is a must for China’s employment service institutes to try multi-regional management and group management. Many phenomena indicate that employment institutes are enhancing their efforts in joining the powerful ones to improve their own competitiveness. By allying with the strong, and through acquisition and re-organization, China is striving to make an aircraft carrier, and to set up a large-scale group company with many Chinese employment service institutes’ team contributions. In this regard, a breakthrough is expected in this year.

Trend 4: Take positions with certificates, education is in vogue

There is no doubt that the competition in every aspect of life will be keener especially after China successfully joined WTO. Certainly, more and more people will return to the classroom to improve their own intellectual quality and to enhance their ability to face challenges, so as to hunt for a much better job in the future. According to a survey conducted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, over 70 percent of the interviewees showed that they would like to improve themselves to welcome the challenges triggered by China’s accession into WTO. The number of various training workshops, research classes, forums and seminars to improve ability, and to further various expertise is increasing rapidly compared with the previous year. These days, such education is a booming industry. People benefiting from these programs are mostly ordinary personnel or people who have been aid off. Among these programs, training workshops focusing on WTO expertise is destined soon to become a very hot industry. As for enterprises, they also attach great importance to personnel training, regarding it not only as an investment which will pay off in the near future, but also a favorable condition to lure talents. More enterprises will try to make themselves into enterprises for learning. One thing worth mentioning is that the popular trend of taking exams for certain certificates will make this year’s training industry much hotter. On the other hand, “foreign certificate” is very much favored this year in China. Besides those foreign certificates that are already applicable in China, more and more such certificates will soon flood into the country from outside, such as certificates for commercial designer, project manager, auditor for information system, accountant with special permission. It is estimated that the promising training industry will enjoy a record-high popularity this year.

(北京青年报 [Beijing Youth Daily] translated by Feng Shu for china.org.cn April 30, 2002)

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