The growth of China's market for personal protective equipment (PPE) will slow over the next few years as the global economic downturn affects demand, according to research.

China has the largest labour market in the world, generating demand every year for about 80m suits of protective clothing, plus 96m pairs of protective footwear and 156m pieces of anti-dust respirators - worth about CNY50bn (US$7.3bn) annually.

But, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan, the financial crisis has greatly impacted industries such as construction and petrochemicals, which are major consumers of PPE products.

As a result, Vivian Chen, Frost & Sullivan's China consultant for chemicals, material and food practice, said the company had revised its growth predictions for China's PPE market.

It is now expected to grow by 13% between 2007 and 2014, down on the company's previous forecast of 16.6% growth.

Nonetheless, increasing concerns over workplace safety and growing worker awareness of their rights with regard to safety and self-protection are still causing a surge in demand for PPE products in China.

However, Chen said the growth rates would slow in the 2008-9 period, when compared to the 19% growth seen during 2007.