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China's labor market embraces industrial shift

Monday, November 17, 2014 - 02:14

As the Chinese economy heads towards a slowdown, construction works are being abandoned and Reuters correspondent John Ruwitch looks at how the labor market is changing to keep afloat.

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A rare sight in China's financial capital - a half-built building at a standstill. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, JOHN RUWITCH, SAYING: "This giant construction site on the western side of Shanghai may one day be offices, a movie theater, even a Wal-Mart. But now, it's totally silent. As the economy has slowed it's had a knock on effect on property, that's had an effect on construction. There were hundreds of workers here at its peak, now it's like a ghost town here." Sites like this are increasingly common in smaller cities, but it's not resulting in the kinds of severe unemployment issues that China grappled with during the 2009 economic crisis. Labor economist Lu Ming. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) ECONOMIST, JIAOTONG UNIVERSITY, LU MING, SAYING: "In China's big cities the labor shortage in the service sector is severe - nannies, hospital orderlies, and waiters - so in the short term, we can expect some workers to change industries. It's not because construction sites struggle that workers immediately face unemployment." It's the reform in China that the government has been gunning for - an economy that's increasingly driven by consumers rather than big infrastructure investments or exports of goods. And it's helped keep the job front relatively stable as growth trickles to a six-year low. But the World Bank recently urged China to aim for even slower growth of seven percent next year adding that it wouldn't hurt the labor market. And judging from the Shanghai construction site, workers do seem to still have options. Most have given up trying to get back pay from the construction company and have moved on to other jobs, says Zhu Yaolong who lives onsite in hopes of being paid the money he's owed. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) SHANGHAI MIGRANT WORKER, ZHU YAOLONG, SAYING: "We migrant workers have no choices. We need to feed ourselves. We must find somewhere else to work if they don't give us money here. If we don't find a job then we have nothing to eat. That's the way it is. Now we are suffering from a delay in the payment of our wages." Beijing will be watching closely for any signs that indicate a fast rise in similar complaints by workers - something that could lead to social unrest. And a slide in China's property sector that further slows things down, is the biggest risk it faces as the leaders navigate the economy forward.

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China's labor market embraces industrial shift

Monday, November 17, 2014 - 02:14