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Employment Situation Still Serious

Facing a grave job situation nationwide, the government plans to create 9 million positions next year and keep the registered unemployment rate in cities below 4.7 percent.

Both targets are higher than the 8 million new jobs and 4.5 percent unemployment rate secured this year.

Labor and Social Security Minister Zheng Silin announced the plan Monday at a national conference on employment and social security.

"While trying to achieve the goals we should bear in mind that at all times creating more jobs is high on the government's agenda," he said.

The ministry believes the country is certain of meeting this year's unemployment objective.

But Professor Zeng Xiangquan, from the Renmin University of China, said the government's statistics fail to reflect the true unemployment situation.

He said most Chinese labor experts believe that when including the unregistered jobless and laid-off workers, China's real unemployment rate would be as high as 15 percent -- and it will continue to rise.

Cai Fang, director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also predicted that China's unemployment rate will jump higher as the country furthers its economic reforms in over-staffed state firms.

The forecast followed the ministry's recent announcement that all re-employment service agencies in seven provinces and municipalities including Beijing and Shanghai will be closed.

The service, which was introduced nationwide in 1998 as an interim program to help millions of laid-off workers from loss-making state-owned enterprises (SOEs), is scheduled to be phased out by the end of next year.

Lay-offs from SOEs, who are usually paid meager sums to cover basic living necessities in line with three-year contracts with re-employment agencies, are not included in the national unemployment figures.

The closure of re-employment agencies means a large proportion of the 3.1 million people on their books will be added to the jobless rolls, Cai said.

Including laid-offs, college graduates and migrant workers are also set to create problems next year.

An additional 2.8 million university graduates are expected to flood China's already-crowded labor market in 2004.

Ran Qing, a collage graduate learning cosmetology in Tianjin, told China Daily she has been experiencing the chill of the labor market.

"I've attended nearly all major job fairs in Beijing and Tianjin to try to land a job since September but have had no success so far," said Ran.

She said there have been minimal opportunities for her at the fairs. "I basically have no chance from the start."

Zeng warned that university graduates need to reduce their expectations and design reasonable career development plans to meet the tight labor situation.

(China Daily December 23, 2003)

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