Nearly two-thirds of those laid off from China's state-owned enterprises (SOE) have found new jobs since 1998, said Zhang Zuoji, Minister of Labor and Social Security, here on Saturday.
At the second plenary session of the 30th meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, Zhang explained to Chinese lawmakers that, during the period from 1998 to the middle of this year, a total of26.11 million SOE staff members have been laid off, of whom 17.26 million have since been re-employed.
As the most populous country in the world, China is experiencing growing pressure with respect to unemployment as more and more young people enter the work force.
Last month, the central government held a national conference on re-employment during which it urged that government departments nationwide redouble their efforts to resolve this problem.
According to Zhang, whose office is principally responsible forthe task of re-employment, the problem of the SOE lay-offs has been alleviated to a certain extent.
A significant number of SOE lay-offs have found jobs in the service and private sectors, he added.
Statistics show that by the end of last year, China's work force reached 730 million, with 490 million in rural areas and 240million in towns and cities. Service sector personnel make up 27.7percent of the labor force.
In addition, some 130 million farmers have been employed by township enterprises near their homes, while an additional 80 million have found jobs in cities.
Zhang said since 1998, the majority of SOE lay-offs have been registered by re-employment service centers set up by governments at various levels which provide them with basic living allowances and pay social security fees for them. The service centers also help to ensure that SOE retirees receive their pensions on time.
Statistics also indicate that over the past four years, 84.7 billion yuan (about 10.24 billion U.S. dollars) in living allowances and 710 billion yuan (about 85.85 billion U.S. dollars)in pensions have been paid.
To date, 140 million workers across the country are covered by pension insurance, over 100 million by unemployment insurance and 82 million by medical insurance.
Despite this support, Zhang pointed out that China's employmentand re employment situation is still "very grim."
From 2001 to 2005, the number of new entries to the work force will reach its peak, which, combined with the problem of unemployment, will exert a great deal of pressure on the country's re-employment efforts.
Zhang said, however, highly-trained personnel in certain burgeoning sectors are still in short supply.
The Chinese government has taken measures such as exemption from taxation, preferential loans, and allowances for social security insurance as part of its employment and re-employment efforts.