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Laid-off Workers to Receive Extra Allowance
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Laid-off workers who will reach retirement age within two years will be granted an extra allowance of 345 yuan (US$42) per month starting in July if they get a job, the Shanghai Labor and Social Security Bureau announced yesterday.

The allowance amount is set at 50 percent of minimum wage -- 690 yuan (US$86) for locals -- and will fluctuate with the income level on an annual basis.

Sheng Zuhuan, a bureau publicity official, said the allowance was granted to help middle-aged, laid off workers with poor vocational skills and a declining physical condition.

People will be eligible for the allowance either by getting a job at a local company or by starting a business. Upon retiring the allowance will stop, bureau officials said.

Common male laborers such as factory workers or office personnel retire at age 55. The age is 50 for women for the same jobs. Retirees receive a pension of at least 1,000 yuan per month.

A 48-year-old women surnamed Sun in Jing'an District is among the first batch of allowance applicants. She was laid off from a state-owned enterprise in the late 1990s. She has since relied on temporary jobs to finance the needs of her family and her son's university tuition.

This May, Sun got a cleaning job at a department store near her home. Her monthly salary is 800 yuan. But she said she was glad about the 345 yuan allowance.

"Despite the small amount, the money is steady income and can ease my living pressure and ensure a smooth transition to retirement," Sun said.

There are 350,000 laid off workers in Shanghai. Bureau officials estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 are within two years of the retirement age, bureau officials estimated.

(Shanghai Daily June 21, 2006)

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