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Gray Collar Workers are Most Popular in China's Workplace within 20 Years | Expert

By ZHAN CHEN|Sep 13,2022

Chongqing- “From today to the next 20 years, the most popular people in the workplace must be gray collar workers,” said Lin Yong, vice president of Chongqing Institute of Talent Development and professor at Chongqing University. Statistics show that gray-collar workers have recently outperformed others in China’s developed regions’ fierce competitive employment market.


Chongqing’s intelligent manufacture. (iChongqing file photo)

The gray-collar workers mainly refer to an employee group whose job descriptions combine white and blue-collar skills, focusing on those compound and practical talents who acquire high education and excellent operation ability. With the technological revolution of today, several professions like intelligent workshop operators, animation designers, web designers, and programmers are also included in the gray-collar group. 

Employees with high skill and intelligent literacy

In Lin’s view, the gray-collar workers now have several new features. For example, an academic certificate and a high-level vocational skills qualification certificate are both required, and their professional scope should be broadened and refined.

Taking Chongqing as an example, gray-collar workers encompass not only skilled technicians and engineers who work in the auto, electronics, and machinery industry but also those working in industrial software, computer numerical control (CNC) programming, and action capture technology in advanced manufacturing industries, such as new energy cars, electronic information, and high-end equipment.

Meanwhile, intelligence and skills are also encouraged. As the digital economy booms, gray-collar workers require both academic literacy in the intelligent field and excellent practical ability in some positions like web design and production, animation design, game production, digital music production, and information defense. 


Employees are working in the companies in Chongqing Software Park. (iChongqing file photo)

Southwest Branch of Taobao University for E-commerce

As a crucial city in manufacturing, Chongqing saw an increasing demand for the manufacturing sector’s employment, with 1.15 million people last year. In the past three years, 658 new majors have been added to Chongqing’s vocational colleges, including cloud computing, industrial robots, and modern service industries. More than 200 colleges have established close cooperative relationships with more than 6,000 companies.

As an essential region in vocational education, Banan District focuses on the digital and intelligent economy with a series of actions. For example, it has introduced the Southwest Branch of Taobao University, aiming to cultivate 20 live broadcast bases with industrial belts within two years and a talents training market of emerging businesses that focus on e-commerce live streaming and spans new retail and customer-to-manufacturer (C2M).  

“The development of the gray-collar team provides new directions for vocational education and broader employment spaces for young people,” said Lin. “At the same time, it provides a constant impetus for a city to improve its overall competitiveness.”


A picture of Chongqing higher vocational and technical education city. (iChongqing file photo)

Deepen vocational education for more high-skilled talents 

Chongqing plans to cultivate two million skilled talents in the digital field and more than 500,000 high-skilled talents by the end of 2025. A digital training pilot area for intelligence and skills and a digital skill training source with national influence will be built. 

Lin believes that Chongqing needs to deepen its vocational education reform and innovation. Currently, the number of students in Chongqing vocational colleges has reached 880,000, including 43 vocational schools with 420,000 students. Chongqing should fully leverage these resources to develop a modern vocational education system. 

At the same time, Chongqing is supposed to strengthen skills training to enhance its skill competitiveness.

For example, it should make good use of national-level high-skilled talent training bases and skill master studios and strengthen its efforts on vocational training based on the demand of the new economy and industries to continuously optimize the structure and echelon of skilled talents.

(Yang Qinmei, as an intern, also contributed to this report.)


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