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Re-employment of Laid-offs Priority for Chinese Government

The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government have always attached priority to helping workers laid off from loss-suffering state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and other jobless people to get employed, Zhang Zuoji, minister of Labor and Social Security, said Monday.

He made the remarks at a press conference hosted by the media center of the ongoing 16th National Congress of the CPC Monday afternoon. Zhang Junjiu, vice chairman of All-China Federation of Trade Unions, was also invited to the press conference and briefed the reporters on development of China's trade unions.

Zhang Zuoji said that at a recent national conference on the re-employment issue, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council adopted a series of preferential policies for laid-off workers seeking jobs.

"Laid-off workers who launch their own businesses are exempted from taxes and administrative fees, and may apply for small-amount loans with central government subsidies for interest payment," said Zhang Zuoji in response to a Xinhua question.

The taxes and fees exemption period will be three years and the loan ceiling was 20,000 RMB yuan (US$2,400) per person with a term of repayment up to two years, he added.

The government will also give subsidies to all service-sector enterprises hiring laid-off workers to cover their social insurance cost, the minister said, adding that any service enterprise in which former laid-off workers account for over 30 percent of the total employees may also enjoy tax reduction or exemption.

Large and medium-sized SOEs are also encouraged to launch new and profitable economic entities to employ their own redundant personnel, and such entities may apply for income tax exemption, he said.

According to the minister, from 1998 to the first half of this year, China's SOEs had laid off more than 26 million workers to raise efficiency and gain profits, and so far over 17 million of them had found new jobs.

Answering another question concerning the relationship between re-employment and improving China's newly built social security network, the minister said that both are very important and should be given equal emphasis by the government.

"The work of promoting re-employment is our priority, and a better social security network is the basis for strengthening the re-employment work," he said. "The two should progress in a coordinated manner."

Zhang Junjiu said that as the representative and defender of workers' rights and interests, trade unions in China have been active in giving those laid off a helping hand in their re-employment efforts.

"In the next three years, we plan to provide vocational training for 1.5 million laid-off workers and other jobless people, offer job placement service to 1.5 million of them and help 1.5 million of them find new jobs successfully," the vice president said.

The trade unions will also set up 200 assistance centers across the country for workers with difficulties within three years, he added.

There are now more than 1.65 million trade unions at the grass-roots level with a record 130 million members, according to the vice president.

(Xinhua News Agency November 11, 2002)