Spring is usually a peak hiring season in China. But this year's novel coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the pace of recruitment, especially for college graduates, and stranded a large number of migrant workers in the country's west, resulting in labor shortages in some eastern regions.
In order to mitigate the impact on employment, China has started to take a string of measures to ensure job creation, facilitate the employment of rural migrant workers and college graduates, and solve difficulties for small and household businesses.
More support for migrant workers
There were 290 million rural migrant workers in China in 2019, with 75 million working outside their home provinces. They are among the hardest-hit by the epidemic.
In order to organize migrant workers to resume production in the wake of the prolonged Lunar New Year holiday, authorities across China have arranged chartered vehicles to take workers from their homes directly to the factories.
Migrant workers from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region get off a chartered airplane at Sunan Shuofang International Airport in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province on February 26 (XINHUA)
Days ago, a chartered plane carried over 140 migrant workers from the city of Tongren in the southwestern province of Guizhou to the manufacturing city of Kunshan in east China's Jiangsu Province.
The workers, each carrying their health certificates, boarded the chartered aircraft after body temperature measurement. After landing, they were directly picked by buses of Kunshan Q Technology Co., Ltd., a high-end camera module manufacturer, to avoid unnecessary human contact.
Wang Jianqiang, General Manager of the company, said the company has received 70 percent more orders for March than a year earlier. However, he was not sure whether the company could deliver products on time because of labor shortages amid the epidemic.
After learning the urgent need of the enterprise, local authorities decided to seek more workers to fill in the vacancies. "We worked with related departments in Tongren to dispatch more than 700 workers to Kunshan, half of whom are poverty-stricken individuals, with free flight and railway services," said Liu Ping, a local official in Kunshan.
Migrant workers from Anhui Province board a special train to Kunshan of east China's Jiangsu Province to resume work, in Suzhou City, east China's Anhui Province on February 20 (XINHUA)
Liu added that the measure can both help workers acquire jobs and ease labor shortages in Kunshan. "More importantly, it can develop a talent pool for the future industrial shift from the well-developed east to the less-developed west."
Authorities in many regions are also helping rural workers secure jobs in their hometowns.
In the city of Huai'an in northern Jiangsu, the local government has announced a slew of measures including the introduction of jobs and employment subsidies to encourage migrants to work in their hometown.
After a series of online employment procedures, Zhou Dongxia scored a job at a local hat manufacturing factory with a monthly salary of 4,000 yuan ($577).
Zhou worked in a cable factory in Shanghai last year but was stranded at home after the Spring Festival. As she was worrying about her family income, the hat factory began to recruit more workers, especially returned migrants like her.
"Now I can work and look after my family at the same time," Zhou said.
Payment exemption for enterprises
In the epidemic center of Hubei Province, enterprises are trying every means to resume production and provide more jobs.
Kanghong Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Co., Ltd. in the lockdown city of Huanggang has promised an extra daily subsidy of 100 yuan ($14.43) for every contract worker during the epidemic. Now 80 percent of its contract workers have returned to work and another 32 temporary workers have been recruited.
Yu Xibing, a business manager of the company, said despite a 60-percent rise in operation costs, the company will take on greater social responsibility and provide more job opportunities.
Large companies can withstand the impact of the epidemic over a long period, while small and medium-sized firms are more vulnerable.
According to a survey of over 6,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) conducted by the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, nearly 70 percent of the respondents said their operating incomes decreased amid the epidemic, and nearly 90 percent said their funds for business operations could hardly last over three months if the contagion continues.
The Chinese Government has rolled out a series of policies, including subsidies and cuts and exemptions of tax and social insurance payments, to help enterprises through the epidemic and lower the unemployment rate. A total of over 500 billion yuan ($72.13) in social insurance payments is expected to be cut and exempted.
Suzhou Tongjin Precision Industry Joint-stock Co., Ltd. has received about 34,000 yuan ($4,904.5) in subsidies for stabilizing the employment of over 80 workers. The subsidy can help sustain staff confidence and resume production more quickly, said Cheng Xianfeng, General Manager of the company.
A worker works at a production line of Suzhou Tongjin Precision Industry Joint-stock Co., Ltd. in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province on March 6 (XINHUA)
In a bid to stabilize employment, many companies also offer online vocational training programs and some authorities even offer subsidies for workers taking part in the online programs.
Expanded channels for college graduates
College graduates in China are experiencing more pressure to find jobs this year as their number reaches a record high of 8.74 million while job recruitment has dwindled or been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Ministry of Education has announced measures to ease the pressure, including launching an online campus recruitment service and expanding the enrollment of master's degree students.
Li Hu, who is to graduate this summer from Jiangnan University, is looking for job opportunities through an online spring campus recruitment. During the popular hiring season in normal years, masses of companies go to campuses to advertise their jobs.
"After submitting my resume on the university's employment system, I have been receiving job matches on my smartphone," said Li, who has not returned to the university campus since the coronavirus outbreak.
The university will also hold an online job fair this month, which is expected to provide more than 48,000 jobs by attracting nearly 800 companies.
To provide more job opportunities, the country will expand recruitment in basic education, primary-level medical care and community services, according to Vice Education Minister Weng Tiehui.
Although the outbreak of novel coronavirus has hit the job market hard, there will still be vast job opportunities in the development of new growth engines and the upgrading of traditional engines, said Weng.
Many Internet firms are adding new staff to cope with business surges amid the epidemic.
Yuanfudao, an online tutoring platform based in Beijing, has launched its new spring recruitment plan with over 10,000 job posts ranging from teachers to programmers.