The Chinese picture: how different sectors look post-COVID

Following our recent blog series about the COVID-19 impact on industry sectors in the UK and USA, Emma Thomson, Employer Engagement Adviser, broadened these insights to provide context for future planning in China. 

The outlook for working abroad is uncertain due to current travel restrictions and every country is handling the COVID-19 pandemic differently.

The bigger picture

A recent publication released by Professor Lu Hai with Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management shows that job vacancies advertised in China between January– April have dropped by 27% year-on-year comparison. However it is important to note that the reduction in hires is most significant in vacancies requiring one to five years past experience, whilst job adverts for new graduates has seen a smaller decrease of 11% (Peking University).

Small businesses, which typically create the largest number of jobs in China, have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. The research carried out by Professor Lu Hai shows that small businesses have reduced their new hires by one third and it is apparent that ‘the smaller the business the greater the impact’. By comparison, on average, organisations with 1000 employees or more have reduced vacancies by 10%. In terms of business ownership, foreign-funded firms have suffered the most with a reduction of 30% in recruitment. Privately-owned businesses followed with a 26% drop in recruitment and 20% from state-owned enterprises (South China Morning Post).

It is clear the pandemic has affected industries differently. We’ve continued to split the industry categories into “weathering”, “adversely impacted” and “responding” to the crisis to indicate how different sectors have been affected.


LinkedIn refers to weathering industries as those that, “…have faced challenges but have managed through some of the changes. On the whole, these industries have seen a smaller drop in hiring.

Peking University reports that ‘transportation and commercial services have reduced hires by 10 to 20 percent. Public service, energy and mining suffered the least, with new jobs down only 10 percent year-on-year’. The study also reports small declines in sports, IT (system, database, maintenance) and finance (South China Morning Post). These are relatively low decreases when compared to some of the harder hit industries explored below. In terms of job types, the least impacted were technician, production management, banks and quality control and safety protection (PKU).

Adversely affected

The decline in the manufacturing industry is evident. Export-oriented industries have been amongst some of the hardest hit – particularly production and supply chains across automotive, high-tech and clothing manufacturers (Frost & Sullivan). The automotive industry has been particularly hard hit. Restrictions and plant closures have adversely impacted the global automotive supply chains of large companies, coupled with a significant drop in car sales in China (BBC).

Whilst the Peking University study suggested the severity of the economic impact peaked in the first quarter, recovery for industries with export interests is expected to be slower. This is in light of the ongoing global pandemic, decreased overseas demand and the possibility of major restructuring of global supply chains.

A linkedin report focused on the impact of COVID-19 on Chinese industries also comments that the service industry has been hit harder than others, ‘especially companies that require high market operation and more contact with people’. This is supported by the Peking University study, which reported that job vacancies in China’s services sector have seen a 40% decrease in vacancies advertised. Statista reports that recreation and transportation are amongst some of the hardest hit industries.


The Global Times reports that since the outbreak of the coronavirus, livestreaming and online education activities have soared as emerging industries, increasing the number of job vacancies in these areas.

According to a recent survey released by Statista, medical education is considered to be the most promising industry after the epidemic, followed by artificial intelligence, internet, and e-commerce platforms. Zhaopin, a leading recruitment site, also ranks real estate, construction, engineering and the industrial internet industry high in terms of graduate employment prospects. A report issued by the Global Times states the demand from these industries ‘could be related to latest series of infrastructure investment projects worth nearly $5 trillion issued by local governments in China’. The investment projects are focused towards ‘new infrastructure’ based on technological innovation such as accelerating the development of 5G networks, artificial intelligence and data centres.

In addition, according to a report released by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, the expansion of the industrial internet industry will boost employment, creating some 2.55 million jobs this year. ‘The industrial internet usually refers to an integration of information technology and the manufacturing industry, constituting the internet infrastructures that connect people, devices and things’ ( The Global Times also reports China’s internet giants continue to grow, including ‘Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, as well as the recently thriving TikTok and Pinduoduo’.

Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to be an evolving perspective, employment is high on the central government’s agenda, particularly finding and increasing employment opportunities for 2020 graduates. Recently Beijing kicked off a 100 day campaign to help graduates entering the labour market. The campaign includes hiring an additional 400,000 graduates into teaching roles, expanding intake onto Masters courses, increasing recruitment quotas for primary care health services and army enlistment. Plus, the campaign is offering financial subsidies to small businesses who recruit new graduates and increasing support for graduates to start their own businesses. State-owned businesses will also ensure that at least half of new recruits are recent graduates.

The Careers Service is here to support you during these uncertain times.  We’re offering all our services online during the Coronavirus outbreak. Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions, including how to get in touch with us, at

Travel restrictions during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: The UK Government, and those of many other countries, advise against non-essential travel globally, indefinitely: It is not clear when this will change. Check the latest advice, and take this into account if you are applying for roles not based in your current country of residence.

(Photo by Michael Zbinden from Pexels)


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