Younger Chinese are spurning factory jobs that power the economy – Reuters

by | Nov 20, 2022 | Jobs

SHENZHEN, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Growing up in a Chinese village, Julian Zhu only saw his father a few times a year when he returned for holidays from his exhausting job in a textile mill in southern Guangdong province.For his father’s generation, factory work was a lifeline out of rural poverty. For Zhu, and millions of other younger Chinese, the low pay, long hours of drudgery and the risk of injuries are no longer sacrifices worth making.”After a while that work makes your mind numb,” said the 32-year-old, who quit the production lines some years ago and now makes a living selling milk formula and doing scooter deliveries for a supermarket in Shenzhen, China’s southern tech hub. “I couldn’t stand the repetition.”The rejection of grinding factory work by Zhu and other Chinese in their 20s and 30s is contributing to a deepening labour shortage that is frustrating manufacturers in China, which produces a third of the goods consumed globally.Factory bosses say they would produce more, and faster, with younger blood replacing their ageing workforce. But offering the higher wages and better working conditions that younger Chinese want would risk eroding their competitive advantage.And smaller manufacturers say large investments in automation technology are either unaffordable or imprudent when rising inflation and borrowing costs are curbing demand in China’s key export markets.More than 80% of Chinese manufacturers faced labour shortages ranging from hundreds to thousands of workers this year, equivalent to 10% to 30% of their workforce, a survey by CIIC Consulting showed. China’s Ministry of Education forecasts a shortage of nearly 30 million manufacturing workers by 2025, larger than Australia’s population.On paper, labour is in no short supply: roughly 18% of Chinese aged 16-24 are unemployed. This year alone, a cohort of 10.8 million graduates entered a job market that, besides manufacturing, is very subdued. China’s economy, pummelled by COVID-19 restrictions, a property market downturn and regulatory crackdowns on tech and other private industries, faces its slowest growth in decades.Klaus Zenkel, who chairs the European Chamber of Comm …

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