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How the UK tech industry can learn from China when it comes to fuelling job creation

Written by Arnold Ma, CEO of Qumin

Reports of jobs being at risk due to technological innovation have been rife in recent months, especially since the rise of generative AI, with the launch of ChatGPT at the end of last year. According to Goldman Sachs, it is estimated that a quarter of all tasks will be exposed to AI takeover, putting 300 million jobs globally at risk. Headlines have reported that productivity will undoubtedly receive a huge boost, but the greatest upheaval will be to the labour market.

With the barrage of negative headlines, however, it’s often easy to overlook how the introduction of and advances in new technologies can boost the economy by opening up job opportunities. And with reports of unemployment on the rise, as the UK’s economy struggles for growth momentum, this is more welcome news.

China, like many global countries since the pandemic, is experiencing an unstable job market, with unemployment rates particularly high amongst young people. Over recent years, various digital platforms have become the main ‘engine’ for business operators to maintain growth. As various industries continue to carry out digital transformation, employment and income opportunities derived from this, are also constantly increasing. According to a report from the Telecommunications Research Institute, the employment and income opportunities coming from the colossal WeChat ecosystem – the social networking site developed by Tencent which boasts 1.2 billion daily active users – will reach 36.8 million by the end of 2023.

There is much talk about the opportunities for consumers and businesses to monetise across the WeChat platform, however, the part of the story that often gets overlooked is how the ecosystem provides an environment for people to connect and help each other – not least by creating new jobs that both help communities and industries, and provide a vital boost for the economy.

147 brand new jobs

A recent study by the China Academy of Personnel Science shows that 147 new occupations have been driven by the WeChat ecosystem in the last year – from roles in the stable and growth phases to those in the start-up stages. The so-called ‘stable period’ refers to jobs that are in mass demand, where the work is basically stable – such as ‘blockchain engineers’ and ‘artificial intelligence trainers’, who all need to pass technical training before they’re employed. ‘Growth’ roles are those where the number of practitioners is rapidly increasing and training services are slowly improving. These include ‘digital warehousemen’, ‘digital shoppers’, ‘digital wealth managers’ and ‘motion capture artists’. ‘Start-up’ stage roles are emerging roles on the platform, including ‘online health advisers’ and ‘WeChat Emoji designers’, and although in the ‘budding’ stages, each emerging new occupation could lead to 100,000 to 200,000 jobs, and there is still plenty of room for development.

Creating roles that improve lives

The WeChat ecosystem is also going a long way to create roles that improve lives by connecting people who have the necessary skills and passion points to provide a solution to a specific community need. For example, if someone posts a request on their WeChat Moments to find a lost pet, there will be someone who offers professional services to take the order and help locate the pet. The rise in lost pet requests has led to the emergence of the ‘pet retriever’ role which has seen the likes of Jingrong Sun, dubbed ‘the top pet detective in China’ who, to date, has rescued 1,000 lost pets from hamsters and rabbits to hedgehogs, and whose new goal is to reunite 10,000 beloved pets with their families, and Qianlei Yang, who created a ‘Pets Out’ programme which helps people find their dogs by sending out a WeChat moment post. Other emerging roles on the platform that show their social value include ‘internet heritage conservation practitioner’ whose mission is to help preserve and protect cultural sites that might be at risk due to e.g., environmental factors.

Fuelling industry demand

Tencent has established a very comprehensive gaming ecosystem, which has facilitated the emergence of many games-related professions. These professions have become very popular among young people and although Tencent may not have directly created these positions, the demand for them has risen as a result of the WeChat ecosystem it’s created. One of these roles includes the ‘e-sports commentator’ – a professional who provides live commentary during e-sports events. As one of the fastest growing sports in recent years, and predicted to be worth £1.25bn by 2025, the e-sports industry is growing rapidly in size and in demand for talents. Tencent has played a key part in helping to respond to this demand with dedicated recruitment programmes with the likes of its partnership with China Mobile Migu to help recruit e-sports commentators for three major e-sports events LPL, KPL and PEL. The contracted commentators receive professional e-sports commentary improvement courses and rely on the Migu platform for a stable income and further exposure opportunities.

Final thoughts

WeChat is clearly more than a powerhouse in China’s social media landscape with a huge competitive edge thanks to its ability to monetise, but it’s also playing a vital part in boosting the economy by not only fuelling demand for existing jobs as a result of the ecosystem it’s created, but creating brand new roles that are emerging due to consumer demand. Beyond the negative headlines that focus on the threat of tech to the labour market, lies an abundance of opportunities for the UK tech industry to not only serve as a force for good, but nurture an environment that creates jobs and boosts the economy.