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Expert: China's 2004 Higher Unemployment Rate Accords with Reality

The target of keeping urban registered unemployment rate to 4.7 percent this year, 0.2 percent higher than the 2003 figure, is based on the real situation in China's labor market, a senior researcher said Sunday.


The target was proposed Saturday by Ma Kai, minister of the State Development and Reform Commission, which is in charge of drafting China's economic and social development blueprint.


Last year, the Chinese government announced that it would strive to bring the urban registered unemployment rate under 4.5 percent, and the rate came out at 4.3 percent by the year-end.


With a population of nearly 1.3 billion people, China would have additional 400,000 unemployed people if the joblessness rate in the urban areas increased by 0.1 percentage point, said Mo Rong, a research fellow with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.


This year, the government has to set the unemployment rate at 4.7 percent so as to deal with an expected increase in labor supply, Mo said.


According to the researcher, approximately 15 million people are looking for jobs in cities annually as a result of a baby boom and transfer of rural labor to urban areas; the 2.6 million laid-off workers at government-sponsored reemployment training centers will soon join the forces vying for limited job opportunities; and more people may lose their jobs along with their enterprises' industrial restructuring and product mix improvement to cope with the new situation in the wake of China's WTO entry.


As one of the substantial government measures to resolved unemployment related problems, Mo said, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security would work harder to ensure that 9 million jobs be created and 5 million laid-off workers reemployed this year.


Another major problem the government has to deal with, according to experts, is the big number of farmers who have lost land to till in the process of urbanization.


The number of the farmers is predicted at some 40 million and will increase by 2 million every year.


Premier Wen Jiabao has urged rigid control over the requisition of farmland and promptly provide land-losing farmers land with reasonable compensation, which is expected to be included in the Chinese Constitution that will undergo some amendments during the on-going session of the legislature, the National People's Congress.


Although a national policy toward the issue is yet to be promulgated, some localities have resorted measures to help the farmers. In Jinhua city of east China's Zhejiang province, where private firms account for the major part of local economy, due compensation, old-age pensions, medical insurance, professional training and accommodation are offered to the local farmers.


In some places in Beijing and Sichuan, those farmers who have lost their cropland because of urbanization are covered by a rural insurance policy, and their employment is listed as the criteria for the assessment of the work of local governments.


(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2004)

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