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Surplus Rural Laborers Hit 150 Million

China has a total of 480 million rural laborers, far outnumbering the actual need of 330 million by 150 million, a government official said here Wednesday.


Zhang Baowen, vice-minister of agriculture, said 160 million Chinese rural workers are employed by rural firms and other non-agricultural sectors in the countryside, leaving the remaining 320 million people growing crops, raising cattle, sheep and chickens, and fishing.


It is estimated that China's crop-growing sector needs only 150 million work forces with 20 million work forces specializing in stock raising, said the vice-minister.


To make matters worse, the rural work force is increasing by about six million each year, the official said.


Farmers in China are busy for about five months a year during sowing and harvesting seasons on their small patch of farmland, and are idle for most of the year. China's per capita of farmland is about one-tenth of a hectare.


Lack of work skills has made it difficult for farmers to seek jobs in non-farming sector and in cities or keep their jobs.


The vice-minister said 38.2 percent of the rural work forces have only primary school education or less, 49.3 percent have junior middle school education, and 11.9 percent receive senior middle school education.


Zhang said 9.1 percent of the rural work forces have received professional training for job skills.


China is expected to need more better trained workers along with the development of the country's economy and rise of emerging sectors, said the vice-minister.


China has launched a program to train millions of farmers from 2003 and 2010.


(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2004)


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