Ref. Ares(2020)2132835 - 20/04/2020
Ref. Ares(2020)2292571 - 29/04/2020
: EMPL A4 Ref.:
Annual Conference EC-CASS (Chinese Academy of Social
EC-CASS Annual Meeting on Supply-Side Structural Reform,
Employment Upgrading and Skills Improvement
Zhengzhou, China (Henan Province)
October 24-25, 2016
Jörg PESCHNER (A4)
Detlef ECKERT, Sonia PERESSINI (E2), Daniel
WATERSCHOOT (D3), Mantas SEKMOKAS (E3),
John HURLEY (Eurofound)
Since 2008, DG EMPL has been meeting regularly with representatitives of the China
Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in order to discuss at detailed technical level policy
issues associated with structural reforms in both the EU and China. The 2016 meeting
was held on 24 and 25 October in Zhengzhou , China.
The CASS is a government think-tank directly under the State Council. It has the rank of
a Ministry and is the country's highest academic research organization in the field of
social sciences. High-level leaders of CASS and several other research institutions and
political bodies were present in the meeting. Those include, among others: Juwei Zhang,
director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at CASS and Shucheng Niu
from Zhengzhou University, Party secretary of the Communist Party.
The focus of this year's meeting was (1) on the economic transformation in China and the
current economic outlook for the EU and (2) skills development in both places.
The Chinese presentations and comments revealed that the country is yet to find its
equilibrium within the tradeoff between guaranteeing continuous and fast economic
expansion on the one hand and 'social balance' on the other hand. Speakers were
and outrightly named some of China's most severe problems:
Shortcomings of government planning
that led to over-capacities in some branches,
shortages in others.
include red tape that represses firms' innovation
capacities, but also the restrictions imposed by the hukou
registration system on
migrant workers. In order to curb migration to the mega-cities, hukou
in the 1950s. It ties people's access to services and social rights to their residential
status. Currently, there are some 280 million intra-country migrant workers in China.
However, as intra-country migration is also needed to fuel growth, hukou
is seen more
and more critical as it contributes to institutional segregation of society and hinders
Significant societal segregation
with poor working conditions and social problems
disadvantaging rural migrant workers (RMW) in particular. This is reflected by a high
number of low-quality jobst (85% of RMW have to work more than 44 hours a week;
only a minority has signed a contract) and low coverage of RMW by social security
due to hukou
Shortcomings in the educational system:
In the light of the speed at which China's
universities produce graduates, the educational infrastructure seems to lag behind and
the quality of education differes greatly across the country's universities. On the other
side, even if the education system still seems productive: following a PIAAC-like
skills survey, 80% of Chinese adult people seems to lack fundamental literacy skills –
making it necessary to invest also beyond tertiary education.
"Chaotic" financial markets
had led to segmentation at the expense of firms in rural
areas that suffer from under-funding.
China is now amongst the more unequal countries in the world.
The Gini coefficient has risen from just above 0.2 in the early 1980s to around 0.5
now. Many of the presentations drew attention to a shift in policy more recently to be
less tolerant of conspicuous wealth and to emphasise more ‘harmony’, welfare and
social cohesion / stability. In the earlier years of the Chinese economic miracle (1978-
1995), state policy was more explicitly growth-oriented (‘efficiency first, equity
second’) and more accepting of the distributional consequences (‘let some people
become prosperous first’, Deng Xiaoping).
a/ the consequences of the one-child policy (in place from
1978-2013) has been a declining working age population since 2012; the decline will
speed up in the course of the 2020s – after having risen by over 70% between 1978
and 2012. That is, condition s for growth will be different from what was seen in the
recent past. b/ the reserve of rural labour that has fuelled the huge migration from
urban to rural areas is beginning to play out. That is, even in a country with 800m
employed persons, there is growing concern that labour will become scarce.
Seemingly, the criticism was motivated by the growing concern over China's slowing
growth rate which is down to below 7% this year and expected to be so also next year.
However, the official line is still to come down from past two-digit growth rates by
emphasising more strongly sustainability, improving quality of live, and safeguarding
EMPL representatives presented
the economic outlook for the EU showing that the EU's economy and labour market
have been moderately recovering since 2013;
the employment polarisation in the EU with more and more jobs being created in the
lowest and the highest wage deciles;
the EU's experience with intra-EU mobility and migration (ESDE 2015),
demonstrating that mobility helps to better allocate labour across the EU and that
external migrants' less favourable labour market performance is due to a large extent
to factors that have little to do with their individual profile (discrimination, non-
On the issue of human capital development, DG EMPL presented evidence on three
main topics: information and data on why skills matter for employability based on the
Staff Working Document supporting the New Skills Agenda for Europe; evidence on
the skills situation in Europe; some actions proposed in the Skills Agenda to tackle, in
particular, the low skilled needs, the visibility of skills, including those of migrants,
and the provision of better services for users and stakeholders, including real-time
labour market intelligence.
the latest results from PIAAC and other instruments to monitor skills in the EU; an
overviewing of key indicators used in the EU to assess skills supply and demand;
weaknesses of existing skills instruments and indicators and potential avenues for
their further development.
The atmosphere at the meeting was open and friendly. The Chinese side was noticeably
keen to learn more about the EU's experiences especially in the areas of migration and
improving educational and skills outcomes. A presentation of an external expert raised
particular attention: Mr Antonius Wintels from the Summa College in Eindhoven,
Netherlands, showcased how the College became the Netherlands' leading organisiation
for vocational training by supplying students with highly relevant skills on the job,
closely cooperating with local businesses. It was informally agreed to hold the 2017
meeting in the Netherlands that would include a visit of the learning facilities provided
by the College.