The Times of India MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2002
China admits grim unemployment situation AFP BEIJING: China said on Monday it faces a "grim" problem of unemployment which appears likely to spiral into the country's worst ever joblessness crisis. The situation is considered so severe that it "could well undermine social stability," vice minister of labour and social security Wang Dongjin said, quoted by the state-run China Daily. China's cabinet, the State Council, will hold a national conference later this year in an attempt to work out how China can tackle "the most serious unemployment pressures it has ever faced", the newspaper reported. Also on Monday China unveiled a major government paper on labour and social security reform, which spoke of the problems of mass unemployment, especially for those laid off from state-run firms. The unusually frank admissions in a country which has traditionally claimed improbably low rates of joblessness follow weeks of industrial unrest centred around China's ailing northeastern industrial heartland. Many of the demonstrators in what have been among the biggest protests to hit the country in years were laid-off workers from inefficient state firms, a sector many economists expect to suffer even more following China's recent entry to the WTO. According to Wang, "an excessive labour supply coupled with pressures caused by obsolete job skills has resulted in a grim employment situation in China," the China Daily said. He warned it was "a pressing and urgent task to tackle the worsening situation, as it could well undermine social stability". The "serious" oversupply of labour was expected to peak over the next few years, with 12 to 13 million people entering the job market annually, Wang warned. "But it is estimated that only eight million jobs can be generated annually over this period, even with the country's current economic growth rate," the paper quoted him as telling an unemployment seminar on Sunday. China's official -- and widely-derided -- unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent does not include those laid off from state companies or the growing army of rural jobless. The China Daily cited Wang as saying 150 million rural labourers were idle, a figure put by the Asian Development Bank this month at up to 200 million. Copyright © 2002 Times Internet Limited. All rights reserved.