The number of unemployed Chinese in cities is about to hit 17 million next year, the peak year in the coming five years, according to a top economic planner.
Considering a pool of 150 million surplus workers in the countryside, the job market in China is still "complicated and grave," said Du Ying, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC).
At a recent meeting of his commission, Du said the annual average number of jobless people will reach 12.3 million during 2006-10 period, and the peak year is 2006.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security held a different view, saying that the unemployment rate for next year will be lower than the average of the country's 11th Five-Year Guildlines period.
Approved by the State Council, the ministry has set a registered urban unemployment rate of 4.6 percent for 2006. But Labor Minister Tian Chengping recently said the annual registered joblessness rate is expected to average at 5 percent in the coming five years.
With a massive influx of labour supply, the urban registered unemployment rate has gone up from 3.1 percent in 2000 to 4.2 percent at the middle of this year.
The researchers said the real joblessness rate in the cities is around 7-8 percent as many were not registered.
Du said China's economy, despite its stable growth, will bring "no evident increase" in creating jobs during coming years.
The State Information Centre affiliated to Du's commission said earlier that China will achieve an average annual economic growth rate of 7.6 percent until 2020. In this benchmark year, the nation will achieve the status of becoming an "all-around well-off society." This rate is lower than during the 1978-2004 period, when growth averaged at 9.4 percent. The centre, a major data provider for the NDRC, also forecasted that China's economy will grow at 8 percent annually in the coming five years.
"But we still meet skilled labour shortage in some sectors," said Du, adding that most of laid-off employees and rural surplus are short of basic occupational training.
Tian's ministry said there is a shortage of skilled workers in many industries, especially in major economic powerhouses, such as the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta.
The government has already launched a project to train a total of 500,000 skilled workers nationwide by the end of 2006.
Statistics show that among the nation's 70 million workers, senior technicians account for only 3.5 percent, compared with a 40 percent ratio in developed countries.
(China Daily November 25, 2005)