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Employment top of agenda in Jiangsu
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Providing jobs for the unemployed and university graduates will be this year's top priority for authorities in Jiangsu province, acting governor Luo Zhijun said in his report to the first session of the 11th provincial people's congress yesterday.

Luo said the government will create more than 850,000 jobs and re-employ 250,000 laid-off workers to ensure all urban families have at least one person in work.

Creating jobs has been high on the government's agenda over the past five years, he said.

According to official figures, over the past five years, the provincial government has spent 5.16 billion yuan ($717 million) on employment and re-employment. Some 4.9 million new jobs have been created and 2.11 million laid-off workers have been reemployed.

But despite the government's efforts, 600,000 to 800,000 people lose their jobs in Jiangsu every year, and some 600,000 join the labor force, official figures show.

"This puts great pressure on the government, but we will take an active approach and continue to carry out a positive employment policy to improve the situation," Luo said.

As in the past, the government will provide free job training for laid-off workers to equip them with necessary skills for new positions, Chen Zhengning, director of the provincial labor and social security department, said.

"We will also take advantage of the rich vocational training resources in the province to organize skills training for high school graduates and unskilled workers," he said.

The measures will be welcome news for Zhang Xin, a Japanese-language major who graduated in July from the Jiangsu Food Vocational School.

The 22-year-old has been out of work ever since.

"I have submitted job applications to dozens of companies and have gone for a few interviews, but they all said they had nothing for me," Zhang said.

His mother, who earns 850 yuan ($118) a month, is the family's sole breadwinner. His 49-year-old father was made redundant when the factory he worked for went through restructuring in 2001. He has held a number of part-time jobs but nothing since the end of last year.

Chen said the authorities are working hard to ease the financial burden on families like Zhang's.

By the end of last year, 98 percent of retirees in cities and counties were covered by the pension system and 88 percent of people had medical insurance, according to the government's work report.

Luo said the government will this year spend 200 million yuan ($27.8 million) on upgrading facilities at rural and community health clinics.

(China Daily January 30, 2008)

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