Saturday, 3 January 2009

From our own correspondent in China and Australia

(By Richard Holway) In November, I brought you several reports of my trip to Japan and China. My last day, 10th Nov 08, coincided with the closure of China’s largest toy factory as I noted in my Message to China post. The situation has got both worse and potentially ugly since with unpaid workers protesting on the streets.

China’s most pressing problem is to find employment for the 1.5m (yes, 1.5m) graduates it produces each year. China’s growth is now expected to fall below 6% which will make their task extremely difficult which could lead to widespread unrest. China’s current problem is a direct result of the economic woes affecting the West – we are not buying enough of their cheap goods. But China’s problem will, in turn, become ours as China tries to move ‘up the value chain’. That coupled with the amount of unemployed but highly educated labour will make it even more difficult for our own graduates.

I’ve just returned from spending Christmas in Australia. The atmosphere there was as different to the UK as was the weather. The shops and restaurants were packed. Nobody we spoke to seemed concerned at any slowdown. My own son-in-law, who has his own electricians business, had more work than he could handle. Australia seems to have run a balanced economy with low debt. It’s also sitting on huge mineral resources. For the first time in many visits, I started to understand – even envy – my daughter for deciding to emigrate.

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