11/27/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Chinese leaders in panic over crisis and unemployment

A rapid rise in unemployment is expected, because of the shutdown or lower production of many companies. The jobs of 120 million migrants are at risk, but also those of 6 million new graduates. Social protests are growing among workers fired without proper severance pay.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - "Owing to dramatic changes in the international economic and financial environment, the Chinese economy currently faces growing downside pressure," and "the global financial crisis has not bottomed out yet." Zhang Ping, president of the national commission for development and reform, the highest office of economic policy in the country, said today at a press conference that the crisis in the country has become much more severe since November, and said that in 2009, "excessive bankruptcies and production cuts will lead to massive unemployment and stir social unrest."

This is already happening now, and protests continue to break out among workers fired with minimal severance, or without being paid at all. On the night of November 25 in Dongguan, about 500 workers fired from the toy factory Kader Holdings (one of the oldest in the area) broke windows and furniture in the offices, and clashed with police (in the photo) in protest against the "unjust severance" they had received.

The crisis is especially severe for the 120 million migrant workers concentrated in the big cities, upon whose sacrifice China built the economic boom, and who are now the first to be fired. Of the 8.6 million people living and working in Shenzhen, less than 25% are "permanent residents." Economist Andie Xie expects "about 20% of the migrants to lose their jobs."

Meanwhile, there are also 6 million new graduates seeking work, who are also being hit by the crisis.

In order to stimulate production, the central bank has cut interest rates by 1.08 points, the biggest cut since the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

It is an ad hoc measure that has left a number of experts puzzled. Stephen Green observes that "rate policy in this environment is a marginal factor - businesses think about possible returns on investments, and households will look at house price prospects."

Erwin Sanft, an economics expert, tells Bloomberg that "there’s near-panic in Beijing as they look at ways to cushion the slowdown."

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