Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) –In 2007 unemployment is on the increase with over 24 million new workers estimated to arrive in the big cities and an ever greater percentage in the countryside. But the main problem for those unable to find work is the lack of social welfare.
Labour and Social Security Minister Tian Chengping, speaking at a press conference in the capital during the National Peoples Congress on March 13th said the government estimates that 12 million job vacancies will be created this year, meaning that there will be 12 million newly unemployed. .
“Our assessment of the employment situation is that the pressure of unemployment in China will remain large and the situation remains severe in the next few years”. The target this year of 4.6 per cent, even though the unemployment rate for last year had improved slightly to 4.1 per cent.
But the main problem for those unable to find work is the lack of social welfare. Xu Deming , deputy chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, told CPPCC delegates yesterday that bankrupt SOEs, or state firms, transformed into shareholding companies still owed former workers a total of 2.05 billion Yuan in back pay and 700 million Yuan of compensation as of June last year. Nu said 28 million SOE workers had been laid off since 1998, while 2 million were still jobless and an additional 3 million workers would be laid off from state firms in the next two years. A quarter of the workers were not covered by pension and medical insurance schemes, which were part of their benefit packages before they were sacked. In a union survey, 700 out of 1,433 of the collective enterprises in Liaoning had been unable to pay salaries for more than a year. And 43 per cent of the 665,000 workers were not covered by pensions, while more than 90 per cent lacked medical insurance.
At the NPC there are ongoing debates over health cost coverage for the unemployed and the young, but so far there have been no concrete proposals. Deputy Labour and Social Security minister Liu Young spoke of government subsidies to needy urban residents, but city residents would have to pay for the medical insurance scheme to be introduced by 2010. Vice-Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo, that the central government was planning to substantially increase tax breaks given to business enterprises for charity donations in the corporate income tax law.
State Administration of Work Safety director Li Yizhong, said his department was “working” on a pilot scheme requiring coal mine owners to “contribute” to commercial life insurance for their employees, on top of basic mandatory life insurance payments. More than 7,000 workers were killed in mining-related disasters last year, despite the watchdog closing more than 8,000 small and unsafe mines since 2005. Li admitted “The small mines are reopened minutes after they are ordered to shut down by authorities”. Small, unlicensed mines can pocket more than 140 Yuan for every tonne of coal, while the profit for major mines is as little as 20 Yuan per tonne.
The bad working conditions within the foreign industries present in the nation are also emerging. Zhang Guoxiang , deputy director of the CPPCC's foreign affairs committee, said labour conflicts in foreign enterprises had risen drastically because salaries were low, many workers had long hours, and some were even physically punished for wrongdoings. He called for unions to be set up in foreign enterprises, while the companies oppose this claiming it would limited their working freedom. In fact, Public authorities have long been “complicit” in the bad working conditions of foreign enterprises, in order to attract foreign investment in the country.