The 4th World Footwear Development Forum of Dongguan indicates focus on “blue collar” workers as the most efficient strategy to aid growth in the Chinese footwear sector

World Footwear Development Forum 2012
World Footwear Development Forum 2012

There was great participation on the part of experts and members of the trade at the 4th World Footwear Development Forum, held in Dongguan from 30 October to 1 November, dedicated to innovation across the sector. Speakers included government functionaries, representatives of industry associations, economists, experts in production and marketing at a global level.

Among those present were heads of major Asian footwear unions, not only from China but also India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. Many foreign speakers also took part at the Forum, such as Ferenc Schmel (UNIDO), Peter Mangione (noted expert on the footwear market and former president of American retailers) and Arnaud Dyduck (CTC, France). The numerous reports covered all aspects of industrial development of the sector, from production to economic-financial aspects, not forgetting strategies and prospects for future development.

Plenty of suggestions were offered to footwear entrepreneurs to face problems and strengthen the possibilities of firms in the face of a slowdown in growth. One outstanding number emerged: in the first 5 months of 2012, China exported 4.14 billion pairs of shoes, obviously an enormous amount but a figure that nevertheless shows a drop of 13% compared to the previous year.

One of the most anxiously awaited speakers was LongYongTu, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade and current consultant of the organizing committee of the Forum, who talked about the need to speed up a strategy to implement “blue collar” workers, in other words enable footwear technicians and more skilled operators to upgrade their standard of living through higher wages and better welfare systems. Skilled workers are indispensable to development of the sector and should therefore be suitably rewarded.

According to the expert, the government should adopt policies that guarantee the best workers higher incomes, safer working conditions and prospects for upgrading. In the same way local governments should adopt targeted policies to solve major problems of workers such as health insurance and housing at reasonable prices. Strategies in line with the decisions of the latest Chinese Communist Party National Congress whose objective is to double average wages within 2020.