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Millions still struggle to find work, official says
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08:08, August 05, 2009

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China's jobless situation is "very grave", with more than 16.5 million people out of work due to the global crisis, a senior labor official said yesterday.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, however, is "confident" that the unemployment rate will remain below 4.6 percent this year, which would still make it the highest level of unemployment since 1980, said Wang Yadong, deputy director of the employment promotion department.

Among those unemployed are about 9 million urban residents, 3 million college graduates and 4.5 million rural migrant workers.

"Due to the global financial crisis, the number of unemployed people has been increasing since the fourth quarter of last year," Wang told a press conference yesterday.

"Though we have managed to stabilize the urban unemployment rate at 4.3 percent in the second quarter, the situation is still very grave. We are under enormous pressure to promote employment."

The jobless rate rose to 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter last year - the first increase in five years - before hitting 4.3 percent in the first quarter of this year.

"The global financial crisis has yet to bottom out," Wang said. "A lot of companies in China are having a difficult time and there is still a great risk of unemployment."

The jobless rate does not include the country's 240 million migrant workers, who make up the main workforce in the labor-intensive industries of the coastal regions and are the most vulnerable during an economic slowdown.

"Less than 3 percent of the migrant workers are seeking jobs in cities," Wang said.

This means that only 4.5 million migrant workers are unemployed, because the total number of the migrant workers in cities is about 150 million, including 10 million in the past six months, according to the ministry's figures.

This compared with 20 million to 30 million migrant workers who lost jobs before the Spring Festival in January. Labor experts said job flexibility and the government's stimulus policies have helped migrant workers.

"The real situation may be more positive," labor expert Cai Fang said yesterday.

"Without any social safety net, Chinese migrant workers have nothing to fall back on. Because they cannot afford to lose their jobs, they are quite flexible in job hunting.

"But the fact is the quality of their work environment has worsened, with less pay and longer working hours."

Thanks to the central government's 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) economic stimulus package, the country has experienced economic growth - last quarter it was 7.9 percent, up from 6.1 percent in the previous quarter - as well as some slight job increases.

From February to June, the number of jobs grew by 0.13 percent over the previous quarter (October 08 - January 09), according to a ministry survey of more than 513 major companies in five provinces.

The number of jobs fell by 8.05 percent between October and January.

A report from the China Institute of Employment Research shows that in the second quarter, the demand for jobs has shown a big increase, 50.7 percent more than the first quarter.

Source: China Daily

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