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7,200 Illicit Job Agencies Closed

In a massive overhaul of the labor market that began in February, China has shut down 7,200 illicit job agencies and ordered them to return 13 million yuan (US$1.57 million) in collected fees to applicants, a government spokesman said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"Illegal activities of job agencies have been brought under effective control. The legitimate rights of workers, especially rural migrant workers, have been duly protected," said Hu Xiaoyi, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

The modus operandi of many of these illicit agencies was typically to collect "fees" from job seekers, usually migrant workers, and make off with the money without so much as information on employment opportunities.

According to Hu, the ministry has organized more than 4,500 recruitment fairs for migrant workers and provided free employment services to 1.1 million of them.

Hu also announced that China's registered urban unemployment rate remained unchanged from last year at 4.2 percent in the first half of this year.

There were 8.34 million jobless people in cities as of the end of June.

In the first half of the year, 5.95 million job opportunities were created. This amounted to 66 percent of this year's goal of creating 9 million new jobs set by Premier Wen Jiabao in March.

Statistics also show that 2.58 million laid-off workers found jobs again within six months, approximately half of what was projected for the year.

Hu said that more effort has been put into improving employment services and continued training for skilled workers. Hu added that a training project for technicians has been launched in east China. The aim of the project is to help workers look for jobs or start businesses of their own.

The central government allocated an additional 2.6 billion yuan (US$310 million) to urban employment this year. This is in addition to funds set aside for laid-off workers from State-owned enterprises (SOEs), Hu said.

All in all, about 20.9 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) has been earmarked for social insurance, employment centers, and re-employment training programs.

Hu said that the coverage of China's major social security programs as of June -- old-age, medical, maternity and industrial injury -- reached 168.7 million, 130.3 million, 45.8 million and 73 million people respectively.

That's 5.15 million, 6.29 million, 1.95 million and 4.57 million respectively more than last year's figures.

Statistics also show that the old-age insurance fund paid retirees a total of 172 billion yuan (US$20.8 billion) in the first half of the year and there were no records of delayed payments.

As of June, 24.12 million people or 63.8 percent of the total number of retirees were being cared for by residential communities.

Hu added that 104.96 million people were covered by unemployment insurance as of June, with 4.03 million having made successful claims on their policies.

"In the next half of the year, we will continue to promote the reemployment of retrenched workers and steadily transform the system of basic life insurance for laid-off workers to the system of unemployment insurance before the end of this year," Hu said.

Hu listed out the funds set aside for old-age insurance, unemployment insurance and medical insurance: 221.5 billion yuan (US$26.69 billion), 14.9 billion yuan (US$1.8 billion) and 63.5 billion yuan (US$7.65 billion) respectively.

(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2005)

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