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Registered Jobless Rate Unchanged at 4.2 Percent

China's registered urban unemployment rate remained unchanged from last year at 4.2 percent in the first half of this year, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security said yesterday.


There were 8.34 million jobless people in cities by the end of June, according to a report issued by the ministry.


During the period, 5.95 million job opportunities were created, accounting for 66 percent of this year's goal of creating 9 million new jobs set by Premier Wen Jiabao in March.


"Creating a stable employment situation is not easy. It is a result of the government's active employment policy catering mainly to those having difficulties finding jobs," said Mo Rong, professor and deputy director of the ministry's Institute for Labor Studies.


This year, the central government has allocated an additional 2.6 billion yuan (US$310 million) to urban employment, apart from funds subsidizing laid-off workers from State-owned enterprises (SOEs).


The two funds total 20.9 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion), with money going on social insurance, employment centres, and re-employment training programmes.


China laid off 27.8 million workers from SOEs between 1998 and 2003, of these 18.5 million, or 67 percent, have been re-employed.


Mo estimated the urban jobless rate might grow slightly to 4.3 or 4.4 percent by the end of the year with the ongoing SOE reform, which may shed more jobs.


Premier Wen Jiabao announced in his government work report in March that China will keep its registered unemployment rate under 4.6 percent. Wen also pledged to put more laid-off workers from SOEs under the umbrella of the country's unemployment insurance system.


Mo said the actual unemployment rate might be as high as 7 or 8 percent if those who have not been officially laid off and registered are taken into account.


But Mo is optimistic about China's long-term employment situation because of sustained economic growth and the expansion of employment programmes for laid-off workers to cover the country's entire urban population.


In 2003 China's registered urban unemployment rate was 4.3 percent.


(China Daily July 20, 2005)


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