Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 11 News List

Employment in ‘critical’ condition, Beijing says

CLOSING FACTORIES The official unemployment rate, which is set to increase, does not include the millions of migrant workers who are not registered where they live

AFP , BEIJING

China warned yesterday it was facing serious unemployment problems due to the global economic crisis, amid signs it was increasingly concerned about social tensions across the country.

“Currently, the employment situation is critical, and this impact [of the financial crisis] is still unfolding,” Chinese Social Security Minister Yin Weimin (尹蔚民) told reporters in response to a question on recent labor unrest.

Yin announced a series of measures to try to stave off unemployment — predicted to rise next year — and to help those who have lost their jobs, particularly among the more than 200 million rural migrant workers.

The trouble has been most acute in Guangdong Province, China’s manufacturing heartland, where one-fifth of factories in major cities are expected to close by January alone, according to industry estimates.

Thousands of workers have recently gathered outside shuttered factories there, demanding unpaid wages and forcing local authorities to intervene.

Experts have warned labour unrest could spike as more migrant workers lose their jobs.

Yin said measures included helping the migrants find a job when they come to urban areas, for example by giving them information about available positions, and providing extra training for those returning home.

Unemployment in China stands at 4 percent, and Vice Minister of Social Security Zhang Xiaojian (張小建) said the government expected to hit 4.5 percent by the end of the year.

“But next year the registered [official] unemployment rate will certainly increase,” Zhang said.

The official unemployment rate does not include the millions of migrant workers who are not registered in the place they live in.

Zhang added that demand for workers in 84 cities across China in the third quarter of this year had fallen 5.5 percent — the first third-quarter drop in “many years.”

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