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Shorter Shifts Proposed to Combat Unemployment
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To ease the unemployment situation and create more jobs, the Central Committee of the China Democratic League (CDL) has proposed a system of 'shorter but more shifts' in certain government departments and for certain professions, favoring a six-hour shift over the usual eight hours.

The status quo is bleak. From 2000, about 3.38 million university graduates have joined the pool of jobseekers each year. To date, the average number of unemployed in urban areas stands at about 8 million.

The proposal suggests changing the current typical eight-hour workday to one that consists of two six-hour shifts; or two eight-hour shifts to three shifts; or three eight-hour shifts to four six-hour shifts.

The CDL estimates that if this new system is adopted, about 20 million new positions can be created by at least one-third of high-profit enterprises in the secondary industry, including the manufacturing, steel and automotive sectors, and about 30 million in the tertiary industry including the services sector.

The proposal also recommends that the system be implemented in public administrative units and institutions, supervisory departments, and monopoly service industries.

The CDL believes that conditions are right for China to adopt this system of work. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has surpassed 10,000 yuan (US$1,250) and last recorded annual revenue was 3,000 billion yuan (US$375 billion).

A report from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued on February 14 shows that urban areas need to create around 25 million jobs to accommodate newcomers to the labor market, those who have been retrenched from state-owned enterprises, and job hunters from the rural areas.

However, it is estimated that, under current circumstances, only 11 million new jobs can reasonably be created. The surplus labor this year will reach 14 million, about 1 million more than last year.

Initial reactions to the proposal

Initial reactions to the proposal haven't been very positive. Those currently employed feel that although the new six-hour workday would give them more leisure time, it would also mean less money.

Further, experts point out that the six-hour workday could also result in other social problems including poor lifestyle and health choices.

Moreover, the argument remains that increasing job opportunities cannot be done at the expense of employee rights and benefits.

( by Wang Ke, March 9, 2006)

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