Unemployment Rate on the Rise

Shanghai’s jobless rate increased to 3.5 percent at the end of last year, a 0.4 percentage point rise over 1999, as restructuring in the industrial sector continues to produce layoffs among state-owned enterprises, the city reported.

Pledging to create 100,000 new jobs for the second year in a row, municipal government said it is aiming to keep the unemployment rate below 4.5 percent through the end of 2001. The number of jobless was not reported.

Municipal officials said the private and service sectors will be targeted for the new employment opportunities.

Among its other relief efforts, the city is mandating for the first time a minimum wage for part-time workers.

In addition, training programs will be expanded to help the unemployed, especially women aged over 40, and men over 50. And a new scheme of subsidies for public works projects will be put into effect.

To protect the interests of part-time workers, a minimum hourly wage of 4 yuan (48 cents) plus another 2 yuan in social security payments, will be imposed following Spring Festival which falls on Wednesday, Vice Mayor Chen Liangyu said last Friday during a conference on the jobs initiatives.

Many unemployed workers are now being paid by the hour to perform domestic services and help keep communities clean, among other temporary positions.

In the past, Shanghai’s only minimum wage requirement was for full-time workers to receive a monthly wage of at least 450 yuan.

“The new bottom line for hourly pay is higher than the per-hour minimum for full-time workers because part-time work is more unsteady, and those who do it are more likely to become jobless,” explained Zhu Junyi, director of the Shanghai Labor and Social Security Bureau.

Commented Hu Younan, a 42-year-old house cleaner who was laid off from a machinery factory, “I’m happy to hear there’s a new policy, because it gives me more security. To me, it’s a pay raise.” She now earns 100 yuan a month working one hour every day for a city family.

Whether the new minimum will make local labor uncompetitive with people from other provinces, who are not covered, is uncertain.

“I’d still prefer to have a laid-off worker from Shanghai as my cleaning lady, even if I have to pay 1 yuan more an hour to meet the minimum salary,” said Fan Huifeng, an anchorman at Shanghai Radio Station. "It’s easier for me to communicate with another Shanghainese, who also will know more about local practices.”

Among its other new policies, the government said it will invest an undisclosed amount in projects that both benefit local communities and give jobs to the local unemployed.

“People who have a good idea can come to the bureau, present their plan and tell us how many middle-age jobless people can be hired under it. We will organize experts to assess the project, and if it passes, provide subsidies,” said Zhu Junyi, labor bureau chief.

The first such project may be the construction of a neighborhood greenbelt, he added.

(eastday.com 01/23/2001)

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