After 40 years of high speed economic growth, what is the future of work in China?

International Conference on Development Economics in China: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening up was held on 7-8 September in Shanghai.

News | Beijing, China | 11 September 2018
Beijing (ILO news) -- At the invitation of the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) - the major think-tank in China, the ILO took part on September 7-8 in International Conference on Development Economics in China at the Shanghai University dedicated to the 40 years anniversary of reform and opening up.

The Conference was opened by Mr Li Peilin, Vice President of the CASS and Mr. Jin Donghan, President of the Shanghai University. In his key note speech, Mr. Xie Fuzhan, President of the CASS, highlighted China’s key achievements, stressing the remarkable rates achieved over the last 4 decades in economic growth and poverty reduction. He further described how targeted policies over the period have significantly promoted the country’s industrialization and the modernisation of its agriculture while infrastructure throughout the country was dramatically improved. These years have had a very positive impact on people’s livelihood, national pride and the country’s confidence about its role on the global scene.

“Between 1978 and 2017, the average annual economic growth in China was of 9.5%. No country or region in the world has ever reached such a high speed and long-term growth in the history of mankind. ” said Lin Yifu, Dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics at the Peking University, and ex-chief economist and Vice President of the World Bank.

Ms Claire Courteille-Mulder, the Director of ILO Office for China and Mongolia, focused her intervention on the future of work, a key priority of the Organisation. She recalled China’s impressive results in creating jobs and in extending social protection over the period. As new technologies will bring both risks and opportunities to the world of work, she insisted on the need to safeguard and enhance the quality of employment. She advocated for life-long learning strategies to cope with some of these risks and warned against the risk of labour market polarization and unequal income distribution which could further widen wealth inequalities both in China and beyond.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University in the US praised China for its remarkable economic development over the last 40 years. In his view, the country’s current key challenge is about ensuring the social and environmental sustainability of its development. He referred to the importance of the UN 2030 Development Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the international community in 2015. He concluded by calling on China’s leadership to help achieve the SDGs at the global level.

More on the ILO future of Work initiative can be found here:

More information on the SDGs: