China's latest official labor survey findings
China has 402 mln workers, with 84 mln in new employment forms and 293 mln rural migrant workers. What has the official labor union found out about them?
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the only national trade union center of the People's Republic of China and overseen by the the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. It recently concluded the 第九次全国职工队伍状况调查 Ninth National Survey on the Status of the Workforce and has released some of the survey findings.
Below are some of the findings. All of them comes from the website of ACFTU. The highlights are ours.
（Workers in a factory in Nanyang, Henan Province in January 2023. by Xinhua)
What are the main findings?
The survey shows that the total number of workers in the country is about 402 million, with 84 million workers in new employment forms and 293 million rural migrant workers. The average age of workers is 38.3 years old, and the average years of education are 13.8 years.
Over the past five years, in response to the rapid development of new technologies, business forms and models , the structural composition, education, technical skills, and aspirations of the workforce have taken on new characteristics.
First, workers in new employment forms have become an important part of the workforce, and the industrial workforce has grown. Workers in new forms of employment are mainly truck drivers, ride-hailing drivers, couriers, take-away delivery workers, and so on. The majority of the workers are male young adults, with a high proportion with rural Hukou/household registration. The education of workers in different industries are obviously different, with 70.7% of truck drivers having an education at junior high school level or below, 38.0% of ride-hailing drivers at the college level or above, and couriers and delivery workers typically having an education at the high school level or below.
The average age of industrial workers is 38.29 years old. 52.1% of them have rural Hukou/household registrations. 36.4% of them are Communist Party of China members or Communist Youth League members. They have 13.16 years of education on average and 29.3% of them have China’s official 专业技术职称 professional and technical titles. 82.7% of them work in the secondary sector of the economy. The proportion of industrial workers in the 3rd/tertiary sector is growing. 77.6% of them work in the manufacturing and construction industries.
[Editor’s Note: The secondary sector is typically understood to be industry. The 3rd/tertiary sector is typically understood to be services.]
Second, the workers' education has generally improved, and the quality of technical skills has significantly improved. The percentage of workers with high school education and above amount to 85.0% and with a bachelor’s degree amounts to 35.5%.
The average years of education of workers in the tertiary industry are 14.5 years, higher than the 12.5 years of workers in the primary industry and 13.0 years of workers in the secondary industry. The age of professional and technical personnel team is mainly between 30-50 years old, concentrated in the industries including education, manufacturing, and health and social work.
Thirdly, workers pay more attention to their own and long-term development and expect ACFTU to play a greater role. 95.3% of workers are interested in learning new vocational skills or knowledge, and this proportion is particularly prominent among workers aged 18-40 and those with a bachelor’s degree or above.
Workers are pursuing more work-life balance and are looking forward to continuous improvement of their quality of life. 69.4% of workers want to spend time with their families during their breaks, 30.1% want to be able to take care of their families while working, and 20.0% want to have more leisure time.
Workers are more dependent on the Internet and its derivative products and services. 8.8% of workers are or have engaged in opening online stores, driving Uber-like taxis, courier service and take-out delivery, self media, trying to become an influencer, education and training, and other online services.
The top three services that workers most want their ACFTU branches to carry out or strengthen are: increase wages (78.3%), carrying out vocational skills training for employees (70.1%), and organizing workers' participation in the management of the companies (32.3%).
What challenges has the survey identified?
The survey found that affected by industrial restructuring, the rise of the platform economy, changes in the perceptions over career, COVID-19 and other factors, the improvement of workers’ skills, the protection of workers’ rights and interests, team stability and other aspects face a new situation and new challenges.
First, the improvement of workers’ skills faces new demands. The shortage of skilled workers is still large, traditional manufacturing have a structural shortage of workers, and the reluctance of young people to enter factories and become workers is increasingly prominent.
Second, the protection of the rights and interests of workers faces a new situation. Workers in new employment forms show low employment stability and enjoy relatively few social insurance and benefits. A large proportion of workers have low income.
Third, the stability of the workforce faces new challenges, with difficult designation of the employment relationship between the workers in new employment forms and their employers and relative big difficulties to protect these workers’ rights according to the law. Additionally, It is difficult to form ACFTU branches in platform enterprises, and workers in new employment forms do not have enough appreciation ACFTU branches, etc.
How is the work-life balance of workers?
Our survey shows that nearly 60% of workers consider more leisure time and richer spiritual and cultural life as the main manifestation of quality of life, second only to income. However, at present, in some enterprises in China, especially in manufacturing enterprises, workers’ utilization of paid annual leave is not satisfactory.
The average working time of manufacturing workers is 5.68 days per week, which is higher than the average level of 5.51 days for all workers, and the percentage of workers who work 6 days or more is 61.46%. Overtime is even more serious for front-line manufacturing workers, with 74% working 6 days or more.
What are the problems faced by workers in new employment forms?
Workers in new employment forms have practical difficulties in the application of laws, with little capability of dealing with risks. The survey shows that 23.6% of workers in new employment forms do not participate in any form of social insurance. In particular, 30% of migrant worker in new employment forms do not participate in any form of social insurance, and only 12.8% participate in the 工伤保险 work injury insurance.
The average age of workers in new employment forms is 34.8 years old, and nearly 60% of them have changed jobs within 3 years. Education and skills are the main obstacles to their career development. 75% of the newly employed workers have a high school (junior college) education or below, and they have strong expectations for improving their capability and skills. The main way is to participate in skills testing or training. According to relevant policies, workers are eligible for a few hundred to thousands of yuan in subsidies after upgrading their skills. However, one ACFTU shows that workers in new employment forms often do not meet the requirements to receive the subsidies. Take one take-away platform as an example, the platform trained more than 10,000 delivery workers in Shanghai and other places in 2021, and the number of workers receiving subsidies was less than 1,000.
How is the survey conducted?
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) attaches great importance to the survey of the national workforce. Wang Dongming, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and Chairman of the ACFTU, gave instructions on conducting the survey. The ACFTU set up a leading group for the Ninth National Survey on the Status of the Workforce headed by key personnel in charge, with a dedicated office in charge of the implementation of the survey program.
On December 21, 2021, the ACFTU issued The Program for the Ninth National Survey on the Status of the Workforce and officially launched the survey. The survey was conducted in the forms of offline sampling, online questionnaires, literature review, and expert consultation.
The offline survey covers 150 cities in 15 provinces (autonomous regions and centrally-adminstered municipalities), including Beijing and Shanxi. The sample questionnaire was divided into two parts: the questionnaire for workers and the questionnaire for local chairpersons of ACFTU branches. 45,000 workers were survyed, returning 44,849 valid questionnaires, of which 83.2% were from workers in employers with ACFTU branches and 16.8% from workers in employers without ACFTU branches; 33.7% of returned questionairres were from workers in public-ownership enterprises such as state-owned or collectively-owned businesses, and 66.3% were from workers in private, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and foreign enterprises. 74.4% were from workers in small and micro enterprises.
3,750 questionaires went to local chairpersons of ACFTU branches, and 3,746 valid answers returned to the survey.
The online special questionnaire survey was carried out in the 15 provinces (autonomous regions and centrally-adminstered municipalities) plus Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Hunan, Chongqing, Qinghai; leading Internet companies; and certain manufacturing enterprises that had been designated as monitoring points on labor relations by ACFTU. In total, 264,200 workers from 3,513 enterprises participated in the survey.
What are the innovations in the survey approach?
The survey was conducted in a combination of online and offline methods, and the two sets of four questionnaires were carefully designed and repeatedly validated to ensure quality. It is a highlight of the survey and an innovative attempt to carry out a large-scale targeted web-based survey, in which two questionnaires were designed for "improving the quality of life of workers" and "workers in new employment forms." Front-line workers in Beijing were consulted on these two questionnaires.
A special group was set up to take charge of the online survey. The group developed a mini-program within China’s popular apps based on the actual situation of workers, organized online training and trial surveys, delivered online questionaires in a targeted fashion based on offline preparations, organized workers to fill in the answers one-on-one, and timely cross-analyze and summarize the survey data to ensure the authenticity, reliability and security of the survey data.
In March 2022, ACFTU completed a trial survey of more than 200 enterprises which had been designated as labor relations monitoring points by ACFTU. In May, ACFTU completed the online survey of 15 provinces (autonomous regions and centrally-adminstered municipalities) on "improving the quality of life of workers", and in June the online survey on "workers in new employment forms".