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Mind the age gap: Employers must balance China’s ageing workforce with their future talent needs


Updated: 14 Apr 2016

China must find a way to balance its aging workforce with the continued recruitment and development of new entrants to the labour market if it is to remain competitive long-term, says recruiting experts Hays in China.


According to Hays, China faces a unique challenge. An ageing workforce and delayed retirement means older workers are staying longer in highly skilled jobs. But is there a risk to the talent pipeline? Do ageing workforces restrict access to young talent entering highly skilled jobs?


“At the moment China’s aging population (those aged 60 or over), is growing by 7 million year-on-year,” says Simon Lance, Regional Director of Hays in China. “In 2013 the aging population stood at 202 million people, but projections released last month in the ‘China Report on the Development of the Silver Hair Industry’ show that by 2053 it will stand at 487 million.


“We need to consider the implications of an aging workforce on young people, particularly in rare and high-skill roles. If we look to the future, in order to maintain our competitive edge the country needs a future pipeline of talent who have the skills and experience necessary to replace our ageing workforce when they do eventually retire.


“Employers have to strike the right balance between retaining highly-valued and experienced older workers, and recruiting and developing the next generation of employees.”


Simon says this is a difficult and unique challenge, since experienced older workers are a valuable asset employers should retain. “Older workers are highly experienced, well educated, and want to remain in the workforce,” he said.


“But with an increasing number of economically active older people, industries must make sure they draw in talent from Generations Y and Z too. Even when the traditional employment pipeline remains at capacity at the older end, employers must still recruit new entrants to the workforce to ensure their future talent needs can be met. Otherwise, when skilled older workers do eventually retire, there will be a skills vacuum that will take many years and a huge amount of investment to fill.”


Ultimately, Hays suggest that the focus should be on the recruitment, development and training of staff at all levels and of all ages.


“The ongoing training and development of competent people – of all ages – is essential to the future success of businesses. After all, organizations need to ensure their workforce continues to evolve to changing market conditions. And when someone does decide to retire, they need to have suitably trained and experienced professionals to replace them.”


It’s a view supported by the Hays Global Skills Index, released last month, which showed that China is already facing a tight labour market for highly-skilled professionals. In particular, the report noted rising wage pressure, which suggests that the shortage of talent has led to employers competing for staff based on salary. Thus China needs to continue to develop its future talent pipeline, says Hays.  


The topic of the aging workforce is explored further in the latest Hays Journal, the recruiter’s bi-annual magazine on the world of HR and recruitment.  To access the Hays Journal please visit:


In China Hays operates from four local offices: Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Guangzhou.


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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About Hays

Hays is the leading global specialist recruiting group. It is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide.


Hays Specialist Recruitment  (Shanghai) Co., Limited ("Hays China") operates across the public and private sector, dealing in permanent positions. Hays China’s eighteen specialisms span Accountancy & Finance, Banking, Architecture, Construction, Education, Engineering, Executive, Finance Technology, Human Resources, Hays Resource Management, Information Technology, Insurance, Life Sciences, Manufacturing & Operations, Oil & Gas, Property and Sales & Marketing.


Hays China operates four local offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Guangzhou. It is the local representative office for Hays plc, which is a global company. As at 30 June 2014 the Group employed 8,237 staff operating from 237 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2014, Hays placed around 57,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 212,000 people into temporary assignments. 24% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific.


Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA.