ILO Director-General: China charts the future of work

China is “shaping its own future”, Guy Ryder tells delegates to the first national dialogue on the future of work, but profound challenges lie ahead for the country, and for the planet.

Press release | Beijing, China | 06 September 2016
BEIJING (ILO News) - ILO Director-General Guy Ryder has commended China’s determination to take its own future in hand to an audience at a post G20 event on the future of work.

In opening remarks to China’s first national future of work dialogue he said the country is one “which is not making the mistake of thinking its future is laid out, but China is set upon the task of shaping its own future”.

Ryder noted that the country had lifted 660 million people out of poverty between 1978 and 2010 while significantly boosting their real incomes. China’s economic and social progress had greatly contributed to achievement of many of the United Nation’s Millennium Development goals, he said.

The head of the ILO said that future developments in the world of work would be similarly reliant on China. “Simply put, the ‘future of work’ is very much dependent upon the future of work in China,” he said.

Speaking at Tuesday’s opening session Yin Weimin, China’s Minister of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS), said: “Through this dialogue today and the activities alike, we are willing to make joint efforts together with the social partners, academia and the ILO to accurately grasp the situation of labour markets in China and around the world, to deepen understanding of the future of work, and to continue contributing to the realization of decent work and social justice.”

The meeting comes in the context of the “Future of Work Initiative”, launched by the ILO in 2015 that invites all member States to undertake “Future of Work” dialogues based around four conversations on work and society, decent jobs for all, the organization of work and production, and the governance of work. Such national dialogues are already taking place in more than 130 countries.

Attending the meeting were government officials, representatives of the corporate world, workers’ organizations, academia and university graduates.

Also presenting at the opening session was Huang Haisong, vice-Chairman of China Enterprise Confederation (CEC) who said: “Through this symposium, I believe the tripartite constituents and the ILO will strengthen cooperation to take practical measures to create more jobs, eradicate poverty, improve the development of enterprises and achieve decent work.”

Jiang Guangping, Vice-Chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) expressed his belief that “through joint efforts from tripartite constituents, the ILO will play a more active role in improving world development and social justice.” Jiang said, “In this regard, the ACFTU will make its own contribution too.”

The symposium unfolded in two sessions explored four “centenary conversations” surrounding the future of work: work and society, decent jobs for all, the organization of work, and governance of work and discussed how China could better prepare for the future of work.

“The global economy is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Technological innovation and globalization are combining to produce profound and rapid changes, particularly in the workplace,” Ryder told the audience.

He went to describe how the four “mega drivers of change” in the Chinese and global economies –technology, demographics, climate change, and globalization – will deeply influence future decision making in the world of work.

In his speech Ryder warned that China faces underlying domestic challenges that will need to be addressed when considering the economic and social wellbeing of its workforce. He urged China to create the freedoms and support needed for social dialogue between government, employers and workers to flourish.

Reducing inequality too is going to be central to the future of work in China: “Inequality divides society, erodes the foundations of productivity and long term economic growth and stifles the human capability to govern not just income and wealth but the quality of human life,” he said. China has one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality, with the richest 1 per cent of households owning a third of the country’s wealth, while the poorest 25 per cent of Chinese households own just 1 per cent of the country’s total wealth.

As part of the ILO’s Future of Work Initiative, the results of China’s national future of work symposium will be collated with other national outputs for use in a high level Global Commission on the Future of Work to be established in 2017.