Government Commits Itself to 3.5% Unemployment Rate

China is determined to help more than 40 percent of laid-off workers find jobs this year. It is also determined to maintain urban unemployment at around the 3.5 percent level.

So says Zhang Zuoji, minister of labour and social security, who attributed the growing number of employment opportunities to the ongoing boom of the national economy in recent years. He said the country will face a lot of pressure, as it tries to create new jobs.

Due to economic restructuring, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have seen many problems such as a large number of laid-off workers, mounting housing subsidies and an increasing demand for pensions.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security predicts the number of people who have been laid-off from SOEs and are still out of work will total about 6.5 million this year.

Furthermore, 8 million new laborers, including new graduates and new job-seekers, have added to the 14 million people who were laid-off during the ninth Five-Year Plan period (1996-2000). This all creates problems for the state’s re-employment efforts.

What makes the situation even more complicated is the flow of rural “surplus” laborers into cities. It is estimated that there are 150 million of them already.

According to Zhang, the government will increase the number of jobs by taking advantage of economic restructuring.

For example, last year, the potential of community service jobs, such as housekeeping and milk delivery, was exploited in large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, and more laid-off workers will be employed in this sector this year.

Preferential policies such as help with starting new businesses and bank loans for unemployed people from SOEs will be put into effect to help them find new jobs.

Re-employment centers should play a bigger role in helping more laid-off workers get vocational and re-employment training, Zhang added.

(China Daily 02/19/2001)

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