As China ages, elevators could help the elderly and the economy.

As China ages, elevators could help the elderly and the economy.

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China’s response to economic slowdowns in the past has been to greenlight multibillion-dollar construction projects to quickly pump money into the economy.

The latest idea to rev up growth during the coronavirus pandemic? Elevators.

China’s premier, Li Keqiang, and his allies in the government want to retrofit as many as three million older, walk-up apartment buildings, projects that usually cost less than $100,000.

The smaller scale projects partly reflect the fact that China has fewer opportunities to spend big. High-speed rail lines and superhighways already link every large city, so new ones connect smaller and smaller communities in China’s mountainous interior — at exorbitant cost. And the country’s debt has spiraled so high that it has become a serious drag on growth.

A national elevator policy could help mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic on China’s blue-collar workers because building them is labor intensive. It could provide jobs to some of the tens of millions of still-unemployed Chinese migrant workers.

It’s a job dominated by small, private contractors in China. The contractors then buy elevators from a multinational — usually Otis Elevator, Schindler, Kone, Mitsubishi Electric or Hitachi — or one of several smaller Chinese manufacturers, like IFE Elevators in Guangzhou.

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