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Trashy in China, 3.0 – How about that full employment, eh?

China, being a centrally controlled economy that is big on international stature and status, pursues a policy of full employment – jobs for all! This would be almost impossible to pull off in a state that does not have central control mechanisms that micromanages the finest aspects of the Chinese economy. This is not a judgement, but a fact. In Canada, for example, the unemployment rate (the percentage of those who were actively looking for work but not yet employed) has been in the high single digits / low double digits for quite a few years. There is a “natural” level of unemployment in a western-style economy. For example, there are those who are in between jobs – folks who have found jobs but not yet started. Plus there are those who enter the work force (e.g., graduates) and who have yet to find employment.

But that does not seem to be the case in China. Almost everyone has a paying job.

But how?

For one, the Chinese impose mandatory military service that takes care of a good chunk of the younger portion of the population. Plus, their standing military is another huge job bank. You can see this on the streets of Beijing. Groups of military personnel are often seen in formation on the streets, performing guard duty outside government installations and in numerous other roles around the urban area.

The police force as well is a huge source of jobs. Police officers are pretty much omnipresent. On every major corner, in and around stores and markets, doing a sidewalk beat – they are a very visible presence here. And I suppose that is why this City is one of the safest – if not the safest outright – large cities on the planet. I as a foreigner am rarely ill at ease on almost any street in night-time Beijing.

But where else are jobs created in order to achieve the goal of full employment? Some of the common jobs are a bit surprising and are not found in Canada. For example:

  • The vast army of street sweepers, garden tenders, waste collectors… just as omnipresent as the police force
  • You want service at a restaurant? How about anywhere from 3-6 servers assigned to your table of 6 diners? Usually all that is needed is a nod and instant presto! Anything you need is brought to the table! And don’t worry about tipping – not allowed here.
  • The traffic and bus herders… men and women wearing orange hats stand guard at street corners directing pedestrians and at bus stops ensuring that transit riders board their buses in an orderly fashion… nice straight and orderly queues!
  • Stores in Canada are often the subject of criticism due to their lack of staff on the floor… not here! Go into a supermarket and show an interest in something on the shelf and watch how fast someone comes running to see if you need any help. Canadian Tire, eat your heart out!

Plus there are the masses employed in the stalls of the markets, selling DVDs or socks on street corners (the Sock Lady is actually as real pain for us), the girls serving us tea in the meetings, the lady who pours us a Coke at lunch… I could go on…

There IS the odd instance of an impoverished person – presumably unemployed. But it seems staged by the authorities as if to say: “Look… we have social problems too!” This person – or sometimes a family – can sometimes be seen sitting or kneeling on a sidewalk, eyes cast downward as if in shame, with sometimes a written plea for (presumably) help in front of them.

All in all – interesting to see from a Westerner’s perspective!


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