The All-China Women's Federation said Tuesday it will help train and employ more than 6 million laid-off women by 2005 and most of them should find an income by serving in the community.
Gu Xiulian, vice-president of the federation, told a national conference there were 80,000 community-based service providers in China, which is expected to expand further in the near future.
All the providers were set up by or with the help of the women's federation at different levels.
"As many as 40 percent of the laid-off women who have found jobs again are working in their communities,'' Gu said.
China's registered urban unemployment rate reached 4 percent last year, with more than half being women.
Against a backdrop of supply outstripping demand in the country's job market, women are in a disadvantageous position as a whole.
Statistics from the national women's federation indicate the employment rate of women aged between 18 and 49 has decreased by 16.2 percentage points between 1990 and last year.
Although community services such as household cleaning and baby-sitting were the choice of most laid-off women workers, who may be considered too old or without the skills necessary for other employment, it took the federation to persuade them to get involved.
And the effort of the federation has paid off with more laid-off women agreeing to serve in the community.
One example is Xiao Rendong, who was a former worker with the Harbin Steel Rolling Mill in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
Xiao lost her job with her husband in 1996 after working at the mill for nearly 20 years.
"Thinking of myself working at other people's homes and obeying other people's orders was unbearable to me at first,'' Xiao said.
But she considers herself lucky she eventually took the "brave first step'' after advice from her local women's federation, which opened the door.
Xiao is now one of the busiest workers in Harbin, earning not only satisfactory money, but respect with honest labor.
Gu said the national federation will now spread the mechanism that has helped Xiao through more lectures, more hotlines and more personal consultations.
It will also step up its occupational training this year, especially in relation to community services, while launching a national network in major cities to disseminate employment information among laid-off women.
This is the way it hopes to help train and employ more than 6 million laid-off women in the next two years.
Women's federations should also provide more loans for qualified laid-off women to start their own businesses.
Tuesday, Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo urged women's federations at various levels to help more women get involved with the development of the country's market economy and again find their position in society.
Providing more jobs and re-employing more laid-off workers are among major tasks of governments and women federations at all levels, Wu said.
(China Daily February 19, 2003)