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Greater Loan Support for Laid-off Workers

Government agencies Tuesday boosted their support for the nation's laid-off workers by making bank loans more readily available to them so they can start their own small businesses.

At a teleconference, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) - the nation's central bank - and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security revealed that the small-amount guaranteed loan system for laid-off workers would be extended to cover 100 major cities by the end of the year.

Vice-Premier Huang Ju said the loan system was an important re-employment policy, and he urged local governments and related ministries to fully implement the policy.

The Chinese Government started encouraging the granting of small, guaranteed loans to the growing ranks of laid-off workers in 2002.

There was 1.2 billion yuan (US$145 million) of such outstanding loans at the end of May, the PBOC said.

Such loans, typically smaller than 20,000 yuan (US$2,400) and in terms no longer than two years, are mostly subsidized by the finance ministry. Commercial banks are generally reluctant to grant such loans due to their low returns and high risks.

To help the loans play a bigger role in the nation's re-employment drive, the risk-sharing mechanisms need to be improved and procedures simplified, it was said Tuesday.

Efforts need to be made to ensure that fiscal subsidies are promptly granted, and financial institutions need to improve their services, participants agreed.

They also urged greater financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises, which are believed to be a major generator of new jobs.

More than 28 million Chinese workers in the State sector had been laid off by the end of last year as the reform of state-owned enterprises proceeded.

Nearly 19 million of them have found work.

Yesterday's teleconference was attended by senior officials from the State Council and related government ministries, and major banks and local governments of 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.

(China Daily July 7, 2004)

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