China has released a five-year blueprint to boost employment, shifting focus to wage growth and expansion of the vocational education system to help drive domestic demand and upgrade industry. Under the plan issued on Friday by the State Council, 55 million urban jobs are expected to be created by 2025 and the official urban unemployment rate capped at 5.5 per cent, compared with over 50 million positions and a 5 per cent jobless rate under the 2016-2020 plan. In a first, the new plan also aims to “steadily raise” the share of wages in terms of GDP. And it contains a compulsory goal of an average of 11.3 years of education for the working-age population by 2025, up from 10.8 years in 2020. Beijing has made employment a top priority since the pandemic hit last year, ramping up the rhetoric on the need for more and better quality jobs. Employment is seen as an economic safeguard, particularly as China pursues its inward-looking “dual circulation” strategy and more advanced manufacturing to avoid the middle-income trap and overcome foreign sanctions on high technology. But concerns about joblessness, which would also affect consumer spending and industrial overhauls, have also mounted in recent years due to the looming population crisis. “The demographic and economic structures have changed deeply, with great in both the supply and demand of labour,” the plan said. It stressed that stabilising and expanding employment were the top priority macroeconomic policy goals, targets that would define the lowest acceptable growth rate for the Chinese economy . China’s electric vehicle makers woo engineers, workers as they scramble for talent to build next-generation cars amid skills shortage The authors of the plan warned that the country’s education system had not been able to produce enough highly skilled professionals to market demand, resulting in a “structural employment contraction” in the job market. Although the number of Chinese university graduates hit a record of 9.09 million this year, many manufacturing companies were still finding it hard to attract the people with the skills they needed. The lack of skilled workers was partly to blame for the continued decline in the manufacturing sector’s share of the economy, economists said. To remedy the situation, policymakers called for vocational training to be expanded, with subsidised training for an estimated 75 million people. Major targeted groups include college graduates, urban youth, military veterans, rural migrant workers, unemployed people and the disabled. The government would fully open up vocational training and encourage more private companies to enter the sector, the document said. It also said a mechanism would be established to track and assess the impact of artificial intelligence on employment, to prevent technology replacing people too quickly The message comes in the wake of Beijing’s sweeping crackdown on the after-school tutoring industry, a move many analysts say was meant to free up more resources for vocational training. The plan also stresses the need for wage growth to keep pace with productivity increases. Sluggish income growth has long been blamed for weak private consumption, a factor that undermines the national strategy of expanding domestic demand. Echoing President Xi Jinping’s latest call for “ common prosperity ”, the plan highlights wages as the primary distribution of wealth. The policymakers also encouraged people to start businesses in rural areas, with promises to provide financial and policy support.