Employment in China - Statistics & Facts

China’s labor force was one of the most important factors contributing to the country’s unparalleled economic development over the past decades. Initially benefitting from its ample supply of cheap labor, the country’s demography and labor dynamics are now changing with the slowdown of economic growth.

With about 1.40 billion people in 2019, China’s population ranks first in the world and is estimated to reach almost 1.41 billion by 2022. However, the Chinese population is aging at a high pace and population growth is forecast to reach a turning point sometime in the late 2020s, when total population figures will enter a declining path. The labor force in China reached this turning point already in 2016 and a general downtrend for the size of the workforce in the coming decades is inevitable as the working age population is shrinking. Hence, efforts to rise productivity levels will become even more crucial for economic growth in the future.

During the early years of the PRC, strong political emphasis was placed on agriculture. Following the implementation of economic growth schemes, more importance was placed on industrial labor during the 1990s and 2000s. With the ongoing transformation of the Chinese economy towards a more service oriented industry, employment in the service sector underwent a considerable expansion over the past years and accounted for more than 46 percent of the labor force in China in 2018. This general shift led to the creation of better paid jobs in the cities and urban regions, which in turn induced a massive stream of migrant workers seeking employment in urban areas of China. According to the Chinese government, the number of migrant workers has reached 288.4 million in 2018. The female proportion of migrant workers amounted to 34.8 percent in 2018, which was 0.4 percentage points higher than in the previous year.

The ever growing demand for qualified personnel fueled the urban labor market. Average annual salary in China’s urban regions increased to nearly 82,500 yuan as at the end of 2018. That being said, wage gaps between different regions were still relatively large. While the average annual salary in Beijing reached approximately 145,800 yuan in 2018, the average annual salary in Heilongjiang province only reached about 60,800 yuan for the corresponding period.

Like most countries in the world, female labor participation in China falls behind male labor participation, but the gender gap in China seems to be less significant than in many other countries. In 2016, the female labor participation rate in China stood at 63.3 percent, thus ranging about 15.4 percent above world average.

The unemployment rate in China stood at 3.8 percent at the end of 2018 and is projected to remain stable over the next few years.

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Employment in China

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Unemployment in China

Wages in China

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