Due to the surge in development of smart manufacturing in China, the country is witnessing a growing gap in its employment structure, and it’s predicted that China will see a shortage of 22 million high-end technical personnel by 2020, according to CCTV Business Channel.
Currently, the increasing labor cost is forcing enterprises to apply higher numbers of robots and intelligent systems to their production force.
For instance, Zhejiang, a province located in China’s manufacturing base – the Yangtze River Delta, is now suffering from a severe labor shortage, especially in the run up to Chinese New Year, a festival centered around family reunion.
“I have had to halt 500 machines because of recruitment failures,” said Zhu Li, head of a clothing factory in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. “The workshops, which are supposed to be in busy operation, are now covered in dust,” he added.
Fan Boyuan, chairman of the board of a Zhejiang-based smart home solution company, explained that the material cost of the clothing industry had gone up by around 10 percent in recent years, but labor cost had increased by 35 percent.
He is now investing in smart production, hoping to find a solution to the labor shortage and increase profits through industrial upgrading.
However, the shortage of technical staff came shortly after the expansion of smart production.
Fan noted that currently, there aren’t many workers who know how to control smart production systems, and many high-end professionals are not willing to work in factories or workshops. The only solution is self-training, he added.
Changes have affected both the production line and the workers. Those who are familiar with the industry and also capable of smart device operation are now in high demand.
The urgent need for technical personnel in the employment market stimulated recruitment from vocational schools. Statistics indicated that in 2017, the employment rate of students from such schools exceeded those holding a bachelor’s degree for the first time.
However, these vocational schools are still facing difficulties when it comes to recruitment, and have experienced downward enrollment for six years since 2009.
Although titles such as technician and senior technician are encouraging to an extent, the incentive systems are still facing problems in that industries are not doing enough to build a full workforce, said Zeng Xiangquan, dean of the School of Labor Relations and Human Resources at Renmin University of China.
Experts believe that in addition to these incentive systems, the expansion of training channels for technical workers and the acceleration of vocational education development is also very important to fill the employment gap.