BEJIING: In a competitive employment market, Chinese companies are looking to employer branding as a way to recruit talent and stem the drift of millennials towards the gig economy.

The 2017 China Salary & Employment Outlook, compiled by global recruitment specialists Michael Page from a survey of 1,000 employers, reported that 55% of Chinese mainland companies expected to increase headcount in 2017 compared to 41% of multinational corporations based in China.

"As domestic companies mature, they are turning their efforts to employee retention and building a strong portfolio of business leaders," said Peter Smith, managing director of Michael Page East China.

Strategies include salary increases of up to 10%, career progression and training incentives. The survey also observed that two-thirds of companies are now practising employer branding, China Daily reported, actively building their reputations as employers in order to differentiate themselves in the labour market.

Fully 86% of companies surveyed said that their organisation was committed to diversity and inclusion initiatives, with gender, minority ethnic groups and religion the focus of these efforts.

Employers also need to consider how to address the attractions of the gig economy, which may already employ 400m people in some capacity and to which millennials are drawn as they shun older generations' preferences for tertiary education and a government-backed job, Yibada reported.

"Those born after 1990 are no longer as hardworking and uncomplaining as their parents," noted Bai Peiwei, an economics professor at Xiamen University. "They value freedom and leisure and hate being restricted by superiors in traditional jobs."

That outlook, combined with the mobile internet and e-payment services, opens up new possibilities for this generation.

"Every month we have between 300,000 and 400,000 jobs," according to Zhao Shiyong, chief executive officer at DouMi, a part-time job platform that claims to have gained 20m monthly users.

"There are a lot of younger people who say they don't want too much job security because they may not need it, because often they don't plan to stay in any one city," he said.

Data sourced from China Daily, Yibada, South China Morning Post; additional content by Warc staff