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Security Fund Secured Off Capital Market

The government has no plans to invest its social security fund, up to 130 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion), into capital market in the Chinese mainland.


Zheng Silin, minister of Labor and Social Security, Tuesday announced the decision, aimed at protecting the fund and avoid fluctuations in the mainland's growing capital market.


Days ago, the State Council gave the National Council Social Security Fund the go-ahead to invest in overseas capital markets. According to some estimates, only about 5 billion yuan (US$603.8 million) will be initially invested in Hong Kong.


At Tuesday's press conference, held during the ongoing ten-day session of National People's Congress (NPC), which opened last Friday, Zheng said the social security fund should follow a prudent investment methodology to minimize risks.


The labor minister also said meeting the cabinet's goal of creating 9 million new jobs this year in China is a difficult task considering the target economic growth rate is down to 7 percent this year from 9.1 percent.


He said the government will use every means at its disposal to put registered urban jobless rate under 4.7 percent.


A total of 24 million job hunters are expected to flood into nationwide labor market in 2004.


Premier Wen Jiabao set the goal during his work report when he opened the session last Friday.


"We have difficulties in achieving the goal," said Zheng.


He didn't detail the problems but vowed to take concrete measures to offer solutions to achieve the goal.


For example, the government will slow down closures of inefficient State-owned enterprises (SOEs) to lessen unemployment while encouraging SOEs to employ surplus laborers in subsidiary operations instead of laying them off.


"The practice we began to use last year is effective to control jobless rate," said Zheng.


Together with laid-off workers, college graduates and farmers-turned-workers are finding it difficult to find jobs.


A total of 2.8 million university graduates are expected to overload China's already-crowded labor market in 2004. Last year, 2.12 million joined the labor force but only 70 percent of them have been employed.


Meanwhile, Vice Minister of Labor Wang Dongjin said the government will do its utmost to help migrant workers get decent jobs in cities.


In the next seven years, about 70 million migrant workers will receive basic training and many will get additional professional training, government officials have said.


The training is aimed at informing potential migrant workers of the basics, including safeguarding their rights and interests, and offering them knowledge about laws, regulations and facts for living in cities, as well as job hunting skills.


Wang said the professional training will focus on sectors like housekeeping services, the restaurant business, hotel services, healthcare, construction and manufacturing.


In order to ensure the success of the plan, funds will be allotted by both the central government and local governments at all levels.


About 300 million yuan (US$36.1 million) will be earmarked by the central government this year in the training of migrants. The investment last year was just 50 million yuan (US$6 million).


The vice minister also announced at the press conference that China plans to draft and improve a relevant mechanism to ensure that rural immigrant workers in cities be paid on time and in full in 2004, saying his ministry is to expedite the drafting of regulations on labor supervision and salary payment in 2004. In addition, an early-warning system will be instituted to deter payoff default and help rural migrant workers to get back their defaulted salaries.


"We will exert our utmost to tackle farmer workers' wage arrears issue and provide them with the same social security protection as their urban peers," said Wang.


Minister Zheng said that the Chinese government will do away with local regulations that discriminate against rural migrant workers and set up a labor market with urban and rural laborers competing on the equal footing. Individuals and enterprises infringing upon lawful rights of rural workers will be penalized harshly, Zheng added.


From 2003 to February 2004, China had helped rural migrant workers to get back defaulted wages of more than 25 billion yuan (about US$3 billion), or over 90 percent of the total wage arrears.


Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to tackle the thorny issues concerning defaulted construction costs and wage arrears for migrant workers in the construction sector within a span of three years in his government work report last Friday.


"The goal is achievable," said Wang Dongjin.


At present, there are some 93 million rural migrant workers in China, mostly working in the construction and service sector.


(Sources from China Daily and Xinhua News Agency March 10, 2004)

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