02/15/2006, 00.00
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Unemployment ranks grow

In spite of rapid economic growth, the ranks of the unemployed are swelling. More and more farmers are trying their luck in the big cities, but the influx is increasing unemployment and lowering wages.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The gap between labour supply and demand is expected to widen this year, leaving 14 million job seekers without work.

An official report released by the National Development and Reform Commission on Monday said 25 million jobs were needed in urban areas this year to absorb new job seekers such as graduates, the registered unemployed, laid-off workers from state-owned firms and the large number of migrant workers from the countryside.

It is estimated that the market will create 11 million jobs, provided the economy maintains a relatively fast growth rate.

Rural labourers would continue to take a significant portion of jobs, based on last year's rapid increase, and this year would account for 60 per cent of the entire workforce.

The report said that the urban unemployment rate remained stable at 4.2 per cent at the end of last year, with 8.39 million people registered unemployed.

Sun Qunyi, director of the Labour and Salary Research Centre of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, said the current situation would continue for a long time. He said unemployment - which worsened in the mid-1990s when a large number of workers were laid off from state-owned enterprises - was a long-term problem.

"Yet the main problem today should be attributed to the acceleration of rural workers moving to urban areas and higher employment pressure in some big cities," Ms Sun said.

"People tend to go to cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shezhen to try their luck, making the labour market more and more competitive in these places."

There are around 150 million migrant workers in China who move to urban centres to work because of extreme poverty in rural areas. Migrants are forced to work for very low salaries, even by Chinese standards, and for inhuman working hours: they have become the main workforce in construction and manufacturing sectors.

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