China's measures to contain COVID-19 caused an unprecedented economic contraction, with urban employment dropping by 6 per cent, or more than 26 million workers, in the first quarter of the year – the largest contraction in more than four decades.
With even more people 'employed, but not working', household disposable income has come under pressure, falling nearly 4 per cent in the first quarter. This will have a lasting effect on consumption unless unemployed workers receive help and get their jobs back soon. Beijing needs to act to help stabilise employment.
The lockdown saw China's growth contract by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter compared with the same period of 2019. Industrial production fell 8.4 per cent and retail sales plunged by 19 per cent. The job losses hit small and medium-sized enterprises, the self-employed and migrant workers particularly hard.
While state-owned enterprises tend to retain workers during downturns, small and medium-sized enterprises are mainly private and have cut headcounts. By April, only 76 per cent of SMEs were back in business compared with 99 per cent of larger companies. That means an estimated 56 million workers had not returned to work – many in locked-down retail or catering firms.
Unlike in countries such as the US and UK, mainland China has not implemented a wage-protection scheme for furloughed workers. This means most of the estimated 81 million Chinese, or 18 per cent of urban workers, who became 'employed, but not working', were not receiving income.
The fall in income coupled with restrictions on activities led to a sharp fall in consumption. And with the global economy slowing, much hinges on a domestic recovery. Without a rebound in activity, many companies, especially SMEs and export-oriented firms, risk bankruptcy and some temporary job losses may become permanent.
Meanwhile, China's 150 million self-employed population saw sharp drops in revenue and profits. Also, more than 50 million of the country's 291 million migrant workers have yet to return to the urban areas as demand for low-skilled labour shrank and they were unable or unwilling to return to their city jobs. And the record number of university graduates seeking jobs this year will increase job competition, putting downward pressure on wages.
In all, the reduced income affects consumption. We believe propping up domestic demand to support jobs thus remains a policy priority. Direct subsidies and consumption coupons can help low-income workers including migrants, but more important will be lifting demand through broad-based support, as well as targeted support for SMEs and the self-employed.
We believe more can be done to support these workers by:
- Extending subsidies for self-employed workers. Three-month rental waivers from state-owned enterprise properties were announced in April but should continue longer, given we expect a gradual recovery, not a sharp rebound.
- Migrant workers' city jobs are transitory, meaning they may not be eligible for unemployment insurance. The government should direct cash handouts to rural families, not as one-off sum, but in an ongoing manner with payments reflecting family size.
- Unemployment benefits are generally borne by local governments but this penalises poorer provinces. Central government should contribute more to balance the burden.
- Stronger fiscal and monetary responses are needed to re-invigorate domestic demand. That includes further corporate tax cuts and increased spending on infrastructure projects financed by special local-government bonds and special central-government bonds.
- On the monetary side, further lending and deposit rate reductions should cut companies' credit costs and state-own banks should be incentivised to lend more to SMEs.
First published 28 April 2020.
Would you like to find out more? Click here to read the full report.
Disclosure and disclaimerMore, collapsed
The following analyst(s), economist(s), or strategist(s) who is(are) primarily responsible for this report, including any analyst(s) whose name(s) appear(s) as author of an individual section or sections of the report and any analyst(s) named as the covering analyst(s) of a subsidiary company in a sum-of-the-parts valuation certifies(y) that the opinion(s) on the subject security(ies) or issuer(s), any views or forecasts expressed in the section(s) of which such individual(s) is(are) named as author(s), and any other views or forecasts expressed herein, including any views expressed on the back page of the research report, accurately reflect their personal view(s) and that no part of their compensation was, is or will be directly or indirectly related to the specific recommendation(s) or views contained in this research report: Qu Hongbin
This document has been prepared and is being distributed by the Research Department of HSBC and is not for publication to other persons, whether through the press or by other means.
This document is for information purposes only and it should not be regarded as an offer to sell or as a solicitation of an offer to buy the securities or other investment products mentioned in it and/or to participate in any trading strategy. Advice in this document is general and should not be construed as personal advice, given it has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular investor. Accordingly, investors should, before acting on the advice, consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to their objectives, financial situation and needs. If necessary, seek professional investment and tax advice.
Certain investment products mentioned in this document may not be eligible for sale in some states or countries, and they may not be suitable for all types of investors. Investors should consult with their HSBC representative regarding the suitability of the investment products mentioned in this document and take into account their specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs before making a commitment to purchase investment products.
The value of and the income produced by the investment products mentioned in this document may fluctuate, so that an investor may get back less than originally invested. Certain high-volatility investments can be subject to sudden and large falls in value that could equal or exceed the amount invested. Value and income from investment products may be adversely affected by exchange rates, interest rates, or other factors. Past performance of a particular investment product is not indicative of future results.
HSBC and its affiliates will from time to time sell to and buy from customers the securities/instruments, both equity and debt (including derivatives) of companies covered in HSBC Research on a principal or agency basis or act as a market maker or liquidity provider in the securities/instruments mentioned in this report.
Analysts, economists, and strategists are paid in part by reference to the profitability of HSBC which includes investment banking, sales & trading, and principal trading revenues.Whether, or in what time frame, an update of this analysis will be published is not determined in advance.
For disclosures in respect of any company mentioned in this report, please see the most recently published report on that company available at www.hsbcnet.com/research. HSBC Private Banking clients should contact their Relationship Manager for queries regarding other research reports. In order to find out more about the proprietary models used to produce this report, please contact the authoring analyst.
- This report is dated as at 28 April 2020.
- All market data included in this report are dated as at close 27 April 2020, unless a different date and/or a specific time of day is indicated in the report.
- HSBC has procedures in place to identify and manage any potential conflicts of interest that arise in connection with its Research business. HSBC's analysts and its other staff who are involved in the preparation and dissemination of Research operate and have a management reporting line independent of HSBC's Investment Banking business. Information Barrier procedures are in place between the Investment Banking, Principal Trading, and Research businesses to ensure that any confidential and/or price sensitive information is handled in an appropriate manner.
- You are not permitted to use, for reference, any data in this document for the purpose of (i) determining the interest payable, or other sums due, under loan agreements or under other financial contracts or instruments, (ii) determining the price at which a financial instrument may be bought or sold or traded or redeemed, or the value of a financial instrument, and/or (iii) measuring the performance of a financial instrument or of an investment fund.
Legal entities as at 11 February 2020
‘UAE’ HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, Dubai; ‘HK’ The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Hong Kong; ‘TW’ HSBC Securities (Taiwan) Corporation Limited; 'CA' HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc.; HSBC France, S.A., Madrid, Milan, Stockholm; ‘DE’ HSBC Trinkaus & Burkhardt AG, Düsseldorf; 000 HSBC Bank (RR), Moscow; ‘IN’ HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India) Private Limited, Mumbai; ‘JP’ HSBC Securities (Japan) Limited, Tokyo; ‘EG’ HSBC Securities Egypt SAE, Cairo; ‘CN’ HSBC Investment Bank Asia Limited, Beijing Representative Office; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Securities Branch; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Branch; HSBC Securities (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, Johannesburg; HSBC Bank plc, London, Tel Aviv; ‘US’ HSBC Securities (USA) Inc, New York; HSBC Yatirim Menkul Degerler AS, Istanbul; HSBC México, SA, Institución de Banca Múltiple, Grupo Financiero HSBC; HSBC Bank Australia Limited; HSBC Bank Argentina SA; HSBC Saudi Arabia Limited; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, New Zealand Branch incorporated in Hong Kong SAR; The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Bangkok Branch; PT Bank HSBC Indonesia; HSBC Qianhai Securities Limited; HSBC Brasil S.A. – Banco de Investimento
Issuer of report
The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited
Level 19, 1 Queen's Road Central
Hong Kong SAR
Telephone: +852 2843 9111
Fax: +852 2801 4138
The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (“HSBC”) has issued this research material. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited is regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This material is distributed in the United Kingdom by HSBC Bank plc. In Australia, this publication has been distributed by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (ABN 65 117 925 970, AFSL 301737) for the general information of its “wholesale” customers (as defined in the Corporations Act 2001). Where distributed to retail customers, this research is distributed by HSBC Bank Australia Limited (ABN 48 006 434 162, AFSL No. 232595). These respective entities make no representations that the products or services mentioned in this document are available to persons in Australia or are necessarily suitable for any particular person or appropriate in accordance with local law. No consideration has been given to the particular investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any recipient.
This publication is distributed in New Zealand by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, New Zealand Branch incorporated in Hong Kong SAR.
This material is distributed in Japan by HSBC Securities (Japan) Limited. HSBC Securities (USA) Inc. accepts responsibility for the content of this research report prepared by its non-US foreign affiliate. All US persons receiving and/or accessing this report and intending to effect transactions in any security discussed herein should do so with HSBC Securities (USA) Inc. in the United States and not with its non-US foreign affiliate, the issuer of this report. In Korea, this publication is distributed by either The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Securities Branch ("HBAP SLS") or The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Seoul Branch ("HBAP SEL") for the general information of professional investors specified in Article 9 of the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act (“FSCMA”). This publication is not a prospectus as defined in the FSCMA. It may not be further distributed in whole or in part for any purpose. Both HBAP SLS and HBAP SEL are regulated by the Financial Services Commission and the Financial Supervisory Service of Korea. In Singapore, this publication is distributed by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch for the general information of institutional investors or other persons specified in Sections 274 and 304 of the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289) (“SFA”) and accredited investors and other persons in accordance with the conditions specified in Sections 275 and 305 of the SFA. Only Economics or Currencies reports are intended for distribution to a person who is not an Accredited Investor, Expert Investor or Institutional Investor as defined in SFA. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch accepts legal responsibility for the contents of reports pursuant to Regulation 32C(1)(d) of the Financial Advisers Regulations. This publication is not a prospectus as defined in the SFA. This publication is not a prospectus as defined in the SFA. It may not be further distributed in whole or in part for any purpose. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited Singapore Branch is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Recipients in Singapore should contact a "Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, Singapore Branch" representative in respect of any matters arising from, or in connection with this report. Please refer to The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited Singapore Branch’s website at www.business.hsbc.com.sg for contact details. In the UK this material may only be distributed to institutional and professional customers and is not intended for private customers. It is not to be distributed or passed on, directly or indirectly, to any other person. HSBC México, S.A., Institución de Banca Múltiple, Grupo Financiero HSBC is authorized and regulated by Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público and Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores (CNBV).
Any recommendations contained in it are intended for the professional investors to whom it is distributed. This material is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase or subscribe for any investment. HSBC has based this document on information obtained from sources it believes to be reliable but which it has not independently verified; HSBC makes no guarantee, representation or warranty and accepts no responsibility or liability as to its accuracy or completeness. Expressions of opinion are those of HSBC only and are subject to change without notice. From time to time research analysts conduct site visits of covered issuers. HSBC policies prohibit research analysts from accepting payment or reimbursement for travel expenses from the issuer for such visits. The decision and responsibility on whether or not to invest must be taken by the reader. HSBC and its affiliates and/or their officers, directors and employees may have positions in any securities mentioned in this document (or in any related investment) and may from time to time add to or dispose of any such securities (or investment). HSBC and its affiliates may act as market maker or have assumed an underwriting commitment in the securities of any companies discussed in this document (or in related investments), may sell them to or buy them from customers on a principal basis and may also perform or seek to perform banking or underwriting services for or relating to those companies. This material may not be further distributed in whole or in part for any purpose. No consideration has been given to the particular investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any recipient. (070905)
In Canada, this document has been distributed by HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc. (member IIROC), and/or its affiliates. The information contained herein is under no circumstances to be construed as investment advice in any province or territory of Canada and is not tailored to the needs of the recipient. No securities commission or similar regulatory authority in Canada has reviewed or in any way passed judgment upon these materials, the information contained herein or the merits of the securities described herein, and any representation to the contrary is an offense. In Brazil, this document has been distributed by HSBC Brasil S.A. – Banco de Investimento ("HSBC Brazil"), and/or its affiliates. As required by Instruction No. 598/18 of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil (Comissão de Valores Mobiliários), potential conflicts of interest concerning (i) HSBC Brasil and/or its affiliates; and (ii) the analyst(s) responsible for authoring this report are stated on the chart above labelled "HSBC & Analyst Disclosures".
If you are an HSBC Private Banking (“PB”) customer with approval for receipt of relevant research publications by an applicable HSBC legal entity, you are eligible to receive this publication. To be eligible to receive such publications, you must have agreed to the applicable HSBC entity’s terms and conditions (“KRC Terms”) for access to the KRC, and the terms and conditions of any other internet banking service offered by that HSBC entity through which you will access research publications using the KRC. Distribution of this publication is the sole responsibility of the HSBC entity with whom you have agreed the KRC Terms.
If you do not meet the aforementioned eligibility requirements please disregard this publication and, if you are a customer of PB, please notify your Relationship Manager. Receipt of research publications is strictly subject to the KRC Terms, which can be found at https://research.privatebank.hsbc.com/ – we draw your attention also to the provisions contained in the Important Notes section therein.
© Copyright 2020, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, on any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited.
MCI (P) 077/12/2019, MCI (P) 016/02/2020