China is making progress in curing its coal energy addiction but it there are big challenges. The government said on Monday that 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel industries will be laid off this year, representing more than 10 percent of the total steel workforce and fully one-fifth of the workers in the coal industry, according to economic research firm IHS Insights. The central government says it will invest more than $15 billion in retraining and job placement for laid-off workers.
Yin Weimin, the minister for human resources and social security, told a news conference that 1.3 million workers in the coal sector could lose jobs, plus 500,000 from the steel sector. China’s coal and steel sectors employ about 12 million workers, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Coal use was down nearly 4 percent in 2015 from the year before, a slowdown being driven both by market forces and by Beijing’s determination to curb toxic air pollution and shift to cleaner sources of power. Already, China is the world’s largest producer of wind power, and a massive push in wind, solar, and nuclear power is planned for the next 10 years.