BEIJING, March 9 (Xinhua) -- China will release its 13th five-year plan on education this year to deepen reform and promote the modernization of education, the country's top economic planner said on Tuesday.
Nearly 3,000 deputies of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) will convene in Beijing in early March to vote on China's 13th five-year plan, one that will affect the lives of 1.3 billion Chinese and have a significant impact around the world.
Non-governmental sectors will be encouraged to invest in education and efforts will be made to promote the integrated development of education in urban and rural areas in the next five years, said the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
The development of education in China's central and western regions will be accelerated during the 2016-2020 period and teaching facilities will be improved in schools for compulsory education in poor areas, said the NDRC.
The five-year plan on education will also focus on bilingual education in minority areas, education of left-behind children (those under the age of 16 whose parents work away from home) in rural areas and children of migrant workers in cities, according to the NDRC.
The plan also stressed the importance of expanding high school enrollment in China's central and western areas and minority areas.
Workforce Education High on China's Agenda
Li Xiaojian has worked manual jobs for more than 40 years, doing everything from harvesting wheat to driving a truck. What he is most proud of is that his son graduated from college and found a white-collar job four years ago.
"I hoped his life would not be as hard as mine, and the key would be education. I saw that people with better educations have more and better options in the job market," said the 57-year-old from northwest China's Shaanxi Province, who only finished junior high school.
Li's expectations for his son are much like those of the Chinese government for the country's workforce. The world's second largest economy aims to raise the average number of years of education its working-age population receives by 0.57 years to 10.8 years in five years, according to the draft outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) released on Saturday.
China Goes Global with "Created in China"
Improving labor quality is pivotal to countering China's weakening demographic dividend by raising productivity. It will also help with the country's ascent to becoming a global manufacturing power.
With seemingly limitless labor supply, the country's working-age population between the ages of 16 and 59 saw a drop for the fourth straight year in 2015, the number of which was 4.87 million less than in 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
China aims to increase labor productivity by more than 6.6 percent yearly on average from 2016 to 2020, to be achieved through improved workforce quality and technology.
"We're talking about how to transform from 'made in China' to 'created in China.' It is high-quality workers who can fulfill the transformation," said Wang Yuhu, who is attending the ongoing annual legislative session.
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Workforce education will also help stabilize the job market amid slowing economy, said Li Chang'an, a professor of public administration with the University of International Business and Economics.
Despite the shrinking labor pool, securing a job in a city is not easy in the face of downward pressure in the economy, which grew 6.9 percent last year, the slowest annual expansion in a quarter of a century.
The 5-year Workforce Target
A government work report delivered on Saturday at the legislative session said the country aims to create at least 10 million new urban jobs and keep the registered urban unemployment rate within 4.5 percent in 2016.
The targets are unchanged from those for last year, while the growth target for this year is in the range of 6.5 and 7 percent and last year's was "around 7 percent."
In addition, the government will work to relocate 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel sectors who will be laid off as a result of industrial overcapacity reduction. About 100 million rural people who are expected to settle in cities by 2020 will also compete for jobs.
"Under such conditions, better education will be an important advantage for job seekers," said Professor Li Chang'an.
Although his son works as a department manager of a private firm, Li Xiaojian cannot rest easy about the young man's future.
Last month, the father left his job as a truck driver because of his age, but went back to toil on his farmland. He said he is saving money to help buy a home for his son in Xi'an City, capital of Shaanxi.
"Buying a house isn't easy, even for a man with a decent job like him. The price is just too high," he said.
Graphics shows main targets and tasks for the 13th Five-year Plan period written in the government work report at the 2016 annual session of China's National People's Congress. (Xinhua/Ma Yan)
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