SCIO briefing on China's economic performance in first quarter of 2021

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National Business Daily:

Data for the seventh nationwide population census has not yet been released. When will it be available to the public? Thank you.

Liu Aihua:

Thank you for your attention to the population census. At present, all sectors of society are very concerned about the results of the seventh national census, and we also hope that everyone will receive new data about the country's population as soon as possible. This year, we will add more detailed information based on the sixth national census while significantly increasing the number of census bulletins to offer more details to the public. Therefore, we will make efforts to expedite the release of the final data.

Cover News:

I have two questions. The first is regarding the price of pork. What are your estimations for the future trends of pork prices following the recent dive in prices, which fell back to a dozen yuan for half a kilo? Will the price remain stable as many consumers wish? The second question is about the nationwide employment situation during the first quarter of 2021. More than 9 million students will graduate from colleges this year. What are the employment prospects for them? Thank you.

Liu Aihua:

Thank you for your questions. First, I talked about the price of pork just now. According to the current situation, pig production in China has recovered thanks to a series of supporting measures to stabilize supplies and price. In the first quarter, pig stocks grew 29.5% year on year and kept rising for six consecutive quarters. Large price drops were seen in some regions due to the recovery of pig production. CPI shows that the prices fell 18.4% year on year in March and also decreased month on month. The price will continue to fall as the pork production and supply situation continues to improve.

Your second question regards employment, which is so far generally stable this year. In the first quarter, the surveyed average urban unemployment rate was 5.4%, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point year on year, while the rate for March was 5.3%, falling by 0.6 percentage point year on year. Judging from current unemployment rate data, the current employment status is relatively stable. But just as you said, the overall employment pressure is relatively high this year, and structural imbalance is gradually becoming apparent in the process of economic recovery.

First, the total pressure still exists. The rural migrant labor population reached more than 170 million in the first quarter, 2.46 million fewer than in the same period in 2019. It can be understood that some enterprises in the service sector, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, are facing more difficulties in production and operations, and are still in the process of recovery. Therefore, the demand for jobs is being directly affected and is indirectly causing the number of migrant workers in urban areas to be lower than before the pandemic. The surveyed unemployment rate for young people aged between 16 and 24 was 13.6% in March, up from a year earlier, indicating that young people still face challenges in employment. This may be because of the large number of young people pouring into the labor market after the Spring Festival and causing frictional unemployment. To some extent, it also signal that the job market is reviving. However, we need time to solve this problem and the job market pressure does indeed remain.

Furthermore, structural issues have also existed. We have learned through the investigation and research process that many enterprises in coastal industrial provinces and major foreign trade provinces report difficulties in recruiting workers. We recently conducted a survey of over 90,000 industrial enterprises above designated size, which showed that approximately 44% of these enterprises reported recruitment difficulties being the biggest problem they face and that this has reached the highest percentage in recent years. During several investigations, many enterprises reported that it is difficult to recruit ordinary workers, skilled workers, and highly-skilled workers on the frontline. These issues have started to appear during the economic recovery.

Therefore, the pressure on both the total amount and the structure of employment exists simultaneously. For the next step, as the economy continues to recover, we will continue to strengthen policies that prioritize employment and increase assistance to groups who have difficulties finding jobs. We will also gradually solve the problems faced by the employment sector by using employment guarantee services and by expanding market-oriented and socialized recruitment channels.

In general, the current employment situation is generally stable. With the overall recovery of the economy, there are still some conditions that need to be met to maintain both the increase of employment demand and the overall stability of the job market throughout the year. Thank you.

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