China's labor force has changed in the past decade as the economy continued to transition to being increasingly driven by consumption.
According to the Chinese Social Survey, China's agricultural and blue-collar workers have declined as a proportion of the labor force between 2008 and 2019. Service industry jobs now make up a more significant part of the labor force, rising from 19.8% in 2008 to 26.5% in 2019. Freelancers have increased to 5.6% of the labor force, reflecting the growth in the so-called gig economy.
For agriculture, the workforce's decline - from 44.9% in 2008 to 30.6% in 2019 - is compounded by its aging. Farmers aged 40 and below made up 61.7% of those involved in agriculture in 2008. In 2019, just 52.1% of the workers fell in that age bracket. The proportion of those 50 and older rose to 22.4% last year, up from 14.3% in 2008.
That has made promoting agricultural digitization an even more pressing task. Digitizing agriculture can help raise the productivity of agriculture, reduce the amount of hard labor required, improve the cost-effectiveness and boost small farm holders, according to a recent essay by a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development.