Happy Chinese New Year! This year is the year of the Ox, valued by the Chinese for their hardworking and honest characteristics. Like the resilient workforce in China since the outbreak of Covid-19.
By Pearce Hegarty
Celebrations for Chinese New Year are set to begin on February 12th, 2021. As the nation prepares to mark their most important holiday, let us take a look at the workforce in China. The most populous workforce in the world, with over 778.7 million workers. It is important for us to understand how they have been dealing with this pandemic. How have they managed to maintain the world’s biggest economy, and help their country to the highest GDP in the world? With other countries struggling economically, many are looking to China now more than ever.
IMPACT OF COVID-19
It is of course common knowledge that China was impacted dramatically by Covid-19. An unprecedented nationwide quarantine was sanctioned in early 2020 to contain the disease. But efforts to combat the spread of the disease soon gave way due to economic stagnation. The government could not afford to let their workers to stay home idle. In hopes of reaching the targeted GDP, authorities ushered civilians back to work. Factories opened again only a month after quarantine began. This could be interpreted as a sign of how valuable the workforce in China really is. While other countries could afford to extend their quarantine periods, China could not. A sign that the workforce in China is more than just highly populated, but also highly efficient.
CHALLENGES FOR THE WORKFORCE IN CHINA
In spite of the government’s urging, millions of workers failed to return to their posts. In fact, it was reported that less than a third of the country’s 300 million migrant workers had returned. Workers for other companies nationwide were also reported absent from their desks. A number of factors contributed to this. For one, the government issued restrictions on transport due to the spread of Covid-19. This left millions of workers trapped at home as part of containment measures. With no money coming in and rising debts, over 80 million workers lost their jobs as a result. In the economic hotspot of Wuhan, over 5 million people lost their jobs within the first two months of 2020.
The government issued a series of reforms to deal with the pandemic. Yet, several sections of the workforce were armed with poor anti-virus equipment. For example, look at the economic stronghold that is the city of Shenzhen. Here, businesses were permitted to work so long as they adhered to loose and vague series of measures. These included undergoing a thorough disinfectant process, and working with local safety officials. Also, businesses would provide workers with an adequate number of face masks. However, these measures have thus far failed to be enforced. Many factory workers were given insufficient material to protect themselves from the virus. For example, there were several cases of employees receiving one to no face masks for their work.
POST COVID-19 WORKFORCE
As the country prepares for Chinese New Year 2021, all eyes look to the government. They have maintained a high level of secrecy throughout this pandemic. At the moment, it seems they are fixated on seeing out this power battle against Covid-19. The pandemic has been damaging to small and average-sized businesses. However, above all else, it has been damaging to the well-being of the workforce in China. As the pandemic wears on, the most populous workforce in the world grows smaller and smaller.
However, the workforce in China have maintained their high standards of efficiency throughout. In 2020, the country achieved a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 24.8 trillion, higher than the year before. The workforce have refused to struggle. They have been powering through the difficulties of Covid-19 with great force. As a result, China achieved the highest GDP in the world in 2020. Chinese New Year may be happy in 2021, after all.