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Unemployed Set up Own Businesses

Shanghai's "4050 Project" - originally aimed at helping local laid-off workers aged between 40 to 50 - has been turned into a synonym for people who want to start their own business, local labor officials said yesterday.

A business fair connected to the "4050" project held over the weekend drew more youngsters and migrant workers than it did middle-aged participants, organizers said.

Sponsored by the Shanghai Starting-Business Guidance and Service Center, the fair showcased business and franchise opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Franchised stores in the service, trade and processing sectors - such as convenience stores, beauty saloons and automobile services stations - were the main attraction, according to Sheng Zuhuan, the center's director.

Previously, labor-intensive businesses such as cleaning and water delivery were the most popular among retired and laid-off workers, Sheng said.

More than 160 patented products were also displayed at the fair, in an effort to recruit companies for further development and manufacturing.

"We hope to turn the fair into a big supermarket, from which anyone who wants to start a business can find his own suitable item," said Sheng, stressing that "4050" no longer refers simply to mid-aged laid-off workers in the city.

The "4050 Project," which began in 2001, has helped more than 2,000 unemployed people in Shanghai set up their own small business, creating more than 50,000 jobs.

"Since it is very difficult for me to find a job in Shanghai, it will be a good choice to open a franchise store," said Zong Bixia, an unemployed woman from Guizhou Province in her 50s.

Zong said she is interested in a small franchise outlet with relatively low investment, such as a laundry.

That is typical of visitors to the fair. Most people who start new businesses under the "4050 Project" invest between 50,000 and 100,000 yuan, according to the center.

The project helps unemployed workers find business opportunities, provides training and can help secure small loans.

(eastday.com September 15, 2003)

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