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Job market challenges as unemployment remains steady

(Xinhua)

08:07, April 26, 2012

BEIJING - A slowdown in China's economy has not caused employment woes, officials have claimed, but they also warned of challenges as the country's small companies are confronting growing difficulties.

The country's urban registered unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent in the first three months of 2012, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS). It means the rate has remained constant for seven consecutive quarters.

This was well below the government's 4.6-percent annual target set for this year.

A total of 3.32 million new jobs were created in urban areas in the first three months of this year, up 9.6 percent from a year earlier, MOHRSS spokesman Yin Chengji said at a press conference. The government vowed to create more than 9 million new jobs in towns and cities this year.

Yin said a sluggish global market, rising trade protectionism and a slowdown in the national economy will all pose challenges to the country's employment situation in 2012.

He added the impact of an economic slowdown might appear later in the year because of a delay effect.

China's economy expanded 8.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, marking the slowest pace in almost three years, as exports waned due to sapped demand from major trade partners such as the European Union and United States.

The country's economy is likely to endure further downward pressure as both domestic and external conditions are grim and the country's companies "are confronting growing operational difficulties, including higher energy prices and substantially higher wages, said Zhu Hongren, chief engineer of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

According to MOHRSS statistics, there will be a huge gap between employment supply and demand as the country will need 25 million new jobs this year but the market only offered an average of 12 million new job opportunities in previous years.

However, compared with a shortage of jobs, the structural unemployment issue was more concerned with workers being competent for new jobs and a labor shortage spreading inland from the coastal regions, according to Yin.

Although there are various challenges, there are ways to solve them, said Zhou Tianyong, professor of the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, calling for more support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for more than 75 percent of the country's employment.

Lowering tax for SMEs will be the most effective measure to boost employment, which will also be viably backed by the country's continuous rising fiscal revenue in these years, added Zheng Gongcheng, director of China's Social Security Research Center at Renmin University.

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