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Part 3: Workforce

第三部分:劳动力



Since China opened up its economy to the world in 1978, the country has experience unprecedented growth. This growth fueled by the seemingly limitless cheap labor migrating from the countryside into urban areas to become the backbone of China’s industry. Around the same time another radical reform was implemented, in 1979 the One Child Policy came into effect. This was done in an attempt to curb China’s growing population and increase its GDP per Capita. These two reforms have reshaped China’s demographics over the last few decades but now have created one of China’s biggest challenges.

1978年改革开放以来,中国经历了前所未有的经济增长。看似无穷的廉价劳动力从农村来到城市,成为中国工业化的支柱,促进了中国的经济增长。几乎是同时,中国于1979年实施了另一项激进改革——独生子女政策。这项政策为了遏制不断增长的人口,提高人均GDP。在过去几十年里这两项改革重塑了中国的人口结构,现在却成为了中国面临的最大的挑战之一。

The same workforce that has powered the nation’s growth since the late 70s is now aging and with more and more going into retirement each year. This presents multiple issues for the country. Due to the One Child Policy, each generation is smaller than the previous. 38 years later and two generations in, the average person entering the work force has two parents, four grandparents that either retired or nearing retirement and no siblings. The current pension and social security programs are not robust enough to be able to support this aging population and the responsibility falls on the youngest generation entering the labor force. In 2013, China has imposed a new law that mandates working individuals to both provide for financially and visit their parents. This cultural virtue turned law, is in attempt to share the financial and psychological weight of taking care of the 222 million Chinese that are over the age of 60 representing 16.1% of total population. These figures are still rising.

70年代末以来,一直为国家经济增长提供动力的劳动力大军正在老去,退休人数每年都在不断增加。这给国家带来了多重问题。由于独生子女政策,与上一代相比,下一代的人口数量不断变小。38年经历了两代人,现在进入工作岗位的劳动力平均拥有两位父母,四位祖父母,这些老人要么已经退休,要么马上就面临着退休,不仅如此,这些劳动力还没有兄弟姐妹。中国目前的养老金和社会保障体系不够健全,不足以支持人口老龄化;赡养老人的责任就落在了刚刚参加工作的最年轻一代人身上。2013年,中国颁布了一项新法律,强制规定子女必须在经济上赡养父母,并经常去看望父母。中国目前年龄在60岁以上的人口有2.2亿,占中国人口数量的16.1%,将文化美德变为法律是为了从财政上和心理上替国家分担重任。而且中国老年人口的数量仍在上升。

With the shrinking workforce, demand for labor now outweighs supply. In the last 8 years, the wages of entry level jobs have doubled making it impossible for factories to be able to match the prices of goods that their customers have become accustomed to. This has resulted in many factories relocating to countries like Vietnam, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. The remaining factories are now turning to automation and the production of high-tech products. This shift to high-tech although necessary is making it harder for older people who are not yet ready to retire to find work. As technology moves forward, companies are reluctant to hire anyone over the age of 35. So when a factory relocates to another country, the workforce over the age of 35 left behind has few options. They often return to the countryside and have to rely on their children to take up the mantle.

随着劳动力人口减少,劳动力需求大于供给。过去的8年里,入门级岗位的工资翻了一番,这就导致了工厂成本增加,无法提供客户惯的产品价格。许多工厂搬迁到越南、埃塞俄比亚、尼日利亚、巴基斯坦、孟加拉国和印度尼西亚等国。而剩下的工厂则在积极转向自动化和生产高科技产品。这种产品升级虽然有必要,可是那些接近退休年龄,仍在找工作的中年人就面临着更多困难。随着技术的发展,公司不愿意雇用年龄超过35岁的员工。因此,当工厂搬迁到另一个国家,35岁以上的劳动力的选择就少了。一般来说,他们只能回到农村,靠孩子来养活。

The one child policy has now been relaxed to two children but this change may not be enough to replenish China’s labor force in the coming generations. Since the couples who are looking to start a family are generally both working and have to support potentially 4 parents and 8 grandparents, having more children proves to be difficult. Before the One Child Policy was relaxed to two children, a study was done where 3,000 women were given permission to have two children. They found that only 10% of the women actually had a second child. For now, China’s population is expected to continue aging and workforce shirking.

虽然中国的独生子女政策现在已经放宽为二孩政策,但这不足以补充中国未来几代的劳动力。由于组建家庭的夫妇通常各自都有工作,而且可能要赡养4个父母和8个祖父母,那么对他们来说再多养孩子就很吃力了。独生子女政策放宽到二孩政策之前,曾经有一项针对3000名中国女性是否愿意生育第二个孩子的调查。研究发现只有10%的女性愿意生育第二个孩子。目前,中国人口仍将持续老龄化,中国劳动力也将持续短缺。

Being able to produce and export more low cost manufactured goods than any other country for decades has given China the title “Factory of the World.” Yet, that once cheap labor is now becoming one of China’s largest economic burdens and vulnerabilities. A smaller workforce has to divert a significant portion of income and national budget to support China’s aging population. As a nation that is reluctant to open its borders to migrants to replenish the workforce and population, China has yet to come up with any significant long term solutions. One of the largest challenges that China has to overcome in its rise on the global stage comes from within. Its once greatest strength is now its Achilles Heel.

几十年来,中国凭借制造和出口比其他国家更多低成本产品,赢得了“世界工厂”的美誉。然而,随着年龄的增长,曾经的廉价劳动力现在正成为中国最大的经济负担和弱点之一。为了应对人口老龄化,规模较小的劳动力个人不得不将收入的很大一部分投入到支持国家老龄化人口,而国家也不得不投入大量预算。作为不愿通过开放边境移民来补充劳动力和人口的国家,中国尚未提出任何长期的有效的解决方案。中国在全球舞台上崛起所面临的最大挑战之一来自内部。曾经最强大的力量现在成了最致命的弱点。