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State Pledges Employment for Disabled

Additional government effort was pledged Wednesday to ensure that a "reasonable" number of disabled people find jobs -- even as the nation is challenged with securing work for 24 million jobless individuals.

A special regulation will be printed in the near future to promote the employment of the disabilities, said Dang Xiaojie, vice-director of the Legal Affairs Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, at the closing ceremony of a two-day international seminar dedicated to the cause.

"An overall well-off society should include the prosperity of vulnerable groups. They are an indispensable part of our life," he said.

About one-fifth of Chinese families have a member with disabilities to a certain degree.

According to Dang, the new regulation will impose a compulsory rule for enterprises to hire a certain number of disabled employees. Otherwise, the enterprises will be required to donate money to a special fund beforehand or face a fine. Money collected in both ways will be used to support action related to employment of the disabled, such as small loans to factories or disabled individuals planning to start their own businesses.

Djankou Ndjonkou, director of the Beijing Bureau of the International Labor Organization (ILO), applauded the initiative the Chinese Government is taking, calling it a significant contribution to one world issue of safeguarding the development rights of the vulnerable in today's fast-changing world.

But Dang did not spell exactly what is a "reasonable'' target proportion. Observers said it would be good enough to merely maintain the present employment proportion of disabled, in view of the fierce competition in the country's job market.

The ministry confirmed it is struggling to create more posts to make up the huge gap of about 10 million needed jobs.

China has 60 million disabled people in total, 24 million of whom are not only capable of, but also willing to, work to earn an independent living. By the end of year 2003, 83.9 percent of these work-eligible disabled people were employed either by state-owned enterprises or through other channels like self-employment.

Qian Pengjiang, a leading official with the China Disabled Person's Federation, expressed concern for simply maintaining the comparatively satisfactory proportion of disabled people working now, a hard-won achievement from below 70 percent at the end of year 1989.

For example, one obtruding fact is some of the country's special factories, the employer of 1.09 million disabled people, are confronted with dimmer than ever market prospects. Their backward technology and outdated products leave most with little room to survive in tense competitive markets.

Qian strongly urged the government to allow social funding of their factories, and have the government make purchases.

He highlighted the importance of a "safety net" for the self-employed disabled, because 1.38 million people with disabilities make a living from self-employment. That's up from less than 100,000 at the beginning of 1996.

"In most cases, they are people who lack proper market guidance, are equipped with insufficient skills and are disadvantaged in winning loans," he said.

(China Daily April 1, 2004)

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