Urban jobless rate due to climb as economy cools

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2005, 12:00am

The mainland is bracing for a higher unemployment rate among urban dwellers, as job creation slows because of plans to cool off the economy.

The National Development and Reform Commission set a modest target of 8 per cent growth for gross domestic product in an annual economic plan presented to the National People's Congress.

The commission also pledged to cap the urban unemployment rate at 4.6 per cent, 0.4 percentage points higher than last year's figure.

'The registered urban unemployment rate at the end of 2005 is expected to be somewhat higher than last year,' the report stated.

The government expects 11 million urban dwellers to join the workforce this year, while only 9 million new jobs will be created.

There are currently 13 million registered unemployed and laid-off workers in urban areas.

'A large number of surplus labourers from rural areas are set to relocate to urban areas [to find jobs]. We still face heavy pressure on the issue of employment,' the report said.

The commission said the government would speed up the establishment of a social security system. The system would incorporate allowances for workers who are laid off from state-owned enterprises this year.

Meanwhile, the government would seek to keep inflation from rising above 4 per cent and achieve balanced trade, with the volume of imports and exports forecast to increase by 15 per cent this year. Last year, the mainland recorded a trade surplus of US$32 billion, an increase of US$6.5 billion from 2003.

The government will also seek to increase incomes across the board, with per-capita disposable income expected to rise by about 6 per cent among urban residents and 5 per cent for rural dwellers.

It expects a 12.5 per cent increase in retail sales of consumer goods, citing the continued improvement in the pattern of consumption this year. In a change of practice, copies of this year's report were distributed among the NPC delegates, rather than being read out by the minister in charge of the commission.