The government should make employment a top priority in social economic development.
There will be around 10 million new laborers entering the job market this year, in addition to millions of laid-off workers from State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and collective enterprises. Some 2.8 million college and university students will graduate this summer - 680,000 more than last year - while the demand for their talents will not increase much. Around 150 million surplus rural laborers will look for jobs nationwide.
But there are also favorable factors affecting the situation. The state authorities have attached great importance to the employment issue, and China's economic growth continues to accelerate. The implementation of proactive employment policies provides protection to the most vulnerable groups, and institutional obstacles have been removed for the employment of college graduates.
Still, the government needs to clearly define its role in expanding employment.
Expanding employment is a basic goal of building xiaokang, or well-off society in an all-round way. It is a basic way to increase personal income and improve the living standards of Chinese citizens. But economic growth alone cannot guarantee the increase of employment. Besides promoting economic growth, a restructuring of industries is needed to maximize job opportunities.
To implement the measures, a ministerial joint conference system has been established under the State Council. An organization has been established by all related departments to lead the initiative, and community institutions will be set up to guide local re-employment programs. Increasing job opportunities and controlling the unemployment rate will be important components of the governments' work.
Two things are vital.
First, an early warning system should be established to check unemployment. When the situation is about to hit the warning level, the government should implement a contingency plan, employing necessary economic policies and administrative interventions to curb possible social disorder caused by increasing joblessness.
Second, an employment fund should be established by allocating government financial resources and collecting social resources. A certain portion of government revenue should be drawn for the use of promoting employment and the total sum should be adjustable according to local situations.
To achieve better results, economic restructuring should be utilized to create more job opportunities.
Healthy development of the national economy will contribute to the drive for employment expansion. Thus when adjusting industrial policies, the strategic target of creating more job opportunities should be highlighted. Macro-economic policies should all serve the goal of promoting employment as well as economic development.
At the same time, economic restructuring should be in accord with employment restructuring. Capital-intensive and high-tech industries should be developed to improve the overall competence of the Chinese economy while labor-intensive industries should be developed to create more job opportunities.
The service sector should play a more important role in expanding employment. Non-public economy should be supported and reform of SOEs should be deepened.
In addition, the market mechanism should play a fundamental role in allocating labor resources. A new employment pattern based on market adjustment and promoted by government administration, with laborers choosing their own jobs, should be established. Public employment service institutions should be strengthened and government financial support should be guaranteed.
What's more, recruitment practices and the labor market should be regulated by laws to protect the equal rights of laborers, and individuals should be encouraged to start their own business.
Therefore, a law to promote employment should be drawn. And the public employment service network should cover all urban areas and most rural areas. A nationwide employment information network also needs to be developed.
The government should give favorable policies and necessary legal intervention to protect disadvantaged groups, such as the elderly and workers with limited skills or disabilities. Discriminatory practices against female laborers should be prohibited.
Last but not least, the government should emphasize statistical research for better policy-making.
Our current unemployment research includes urban unemployment registration by the labor department, urban unemployment surveys by the statistics department and many other small-scale studies. Data collected through these researches are still incomplete. Therefore it is a pressing task for the government to gather more comprehensive information for discovering better solutions for the unemployment problem.
(China Daily March 24, 2004)