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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: April 17, 2010 NO. 16 APRIL 22, 2010
Making a New Living
Social changes within China have given rise to a variety of occupations


TAILORED SERVICE: A real estate agent introduces apartment buildings to prospective clients at Nanjing Spring Housing Fair in Jiangsu Province on April 1 (SUN CAN) 

On a Friday evening in early April Yang Xu, a 24-year-old real estate agent in Beijing, made several calls during a simple dinner. After learning the owner of an apartment intended to sell the property, he immediately called potential buyers with whom he had been in touch for the past several months. When he finally brought the prospective buyers and the seller together, it was 8:00 p.m.

Real estate agent is one of the new occupations announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security since 2004. This occupation is nothing new in the West, yet in China, virtually no agents were required under a planned economy as housing in urban areas was allocated by the government. The housing allocation system in China was terminated in the late 1990s, and houses have since been traded as commodities.

Since the reform and opening-up policy was implemented in 1978, China's economy has gradually shifted from a planned economy to a market-oriented economy, and great changes have taken place in the professional lives of Chinese people, said Zhou Wenxia, a professor from the School of Labor and Human Resources at Renmin University of China,

Occupations such as Web editors, animation graphic designers, digital-video artists and landscape designers, which were unheard of 20 years ago, have now been classified as new occupations. Traditional occupations such as knife and scissor sharpeners, pot and bowl repairers, telephone operators and moveable typesetters in traditional printing factories, have disappeared or are in the process of disappearing.

Occupations emerge and disappear with the passage of time, said Zhou.

New occupational boom

In order to adapt to these changes in occupations, the Ministry of Human Recourses and Social Security began to add new occupations to the standard occupation list in 2004. So far, 12 batches of 122 new occupations have been added. The 12th batch of eight new occupations was announced on November 12, 2009. Driving instructors, leather maintenance workers, seasoning tasters, and liquid natural gas operators were included in the list.

Li Yongpeng, an official with the Occupational Skill Testing Authority of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said that "new occupations" refer to those occupations not listed in The People's Republic of China Occupation Classification published in 1999, but practiced by a certain number of people, usually at least 5,000, with unique and mature professional competence. The practitioners depend on these occupations for a living, and provide products or service for others in compliance with laws and regulations.

Any government department, organization, company, school or individual can propose the Occupational Skill Testing Authority add a new occupation to the standard occupation list. The proposals will be reviewed by the relevant supervisory government departments for the applicants, and then registered with the Occupational Skill Testing Authority. Experts evaluate these proposals according to certain criteria, and publish the results for public feedback. Occupations that pass the evaluation will be announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

The new occupations announced are concentrated in several areas, including designers, hi-tech professionals, analysts and consultants, nutritionists and health therapists. About one third of the 122 new occupations are related to design, including graphic, landscape, lighting and textile designers. Designers are considered the key individuals for providing companies with a competitive edge on the market.

Another area of new occupations is related to Internet, such as Web editors, digital media synthesizers and animation graphic designers. The past decade has seen the rapid spread of the Internet within China. According to statistics released by China Internet Network Information Center, the number of Internet users in China has soared from 591,000 in 2002 to 384 million, or 28.9 percent of China's total population in 2009.

Numerous jobs in the primary and secondary industries are disappearing, changing or being regrouped, while the tertiary industry is developing rapidly, said Zhou, and many new occupations are in the service sector.

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