Rising Temperatures Threaten China’s Workforce

Annual heat-induced work hours losses are expected to increase by 120 percent by the end of the century in the country, study estimates.

Asian Scientist Magazine (Jan. 17, 2024) —In a new study, researchers from Tsinghua University report that increasing temperatures can lead to labor losses in China, thereby negatively impacting the country’s economy. The study was published in the Science Bulletin.

According to the study, the annual heat-induced work hours lost (WHL) are expected to increase by 121.1 percent by the end of the century in China.

Researchers found that the southern, eastern, and central regions are the most vulnerable. These regions tend to experience higher temperature exposure, have larger population sizes and a greater share of vulnerable populations in total employment. Guangdong and Henan provinces, in particular, are predicted to bear a quarter of the national total losses.

The study was led by Professor Huang, corresponding author and professor at the Vanke School of Public Health, Tsinghua University. The rising temperatures have undermined the health and safety of the working population, as well as caused labor losses, which are closely tied to socio-economic development.

The study suggests that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could substantially lower the losses. In comparison to the worst case projected scenarios, achieving the 1.5 degrees target would allow the southern, eastern, and central regions to avoid an average of 11.8 percent, 33.7 percent, and 53.9 percent of annual WHL respectively.

The study provides a strong foundation for policymakers to understand the severity of future heat-related labor losses due to climate change in China. Thus, stringent mitigation policies and effective adaptation measures are essential to protect occupational health and work capacity. The study urges policymakers in each province to tailor occupational health protection measures to their unique circumstances.

Beyond its immediate impact on China, this study carries global implications. Climate change continues to affect regions with heterogeneous spatial distribution of working populations, industries and climates. Thus, other developing countries with similar characteristics may also experience similar losses.

Source: Tsinghua University; Image: Shelly Liew/Asian Scientist Magazine

The article can be found at: Projecting future labor losses due to heat stress in China under climate change scenarios

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.



Parvaiz Yousuf is a science journalist and researcher based in Kashmir, India.

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