268m unemployed in China by year 2000
By WILLY WO-LAP LAM
THERE will be 268 million unemployed Chinese by the year 2000, according to projections released yesterday by the Ministry of Labour.
The authorities have also announced Draconian measures to stop mass lay-offs by state enterprises.
Xinhua (the New China News Agency) yesterday quoted a ministry spokesman as saying that by the year 2000, ''there will be 68 million people in cities and over 200 million in the rural areas waiting to be placed''.
Assuming that China can reach its target of keeping the population to 1.2 billion by the end of the century, the jobless rate will be 22.33 per cent.
Population and labour experts in Beijing said the exacerbation of rural unemployment, estimated at more than 100 million now, could dramatically worsen the problem of migrant labour swarming into the cities.
Xinhua disclosed that the ''floating population'' in the cities already numbered 50 million to 60 million.
The projections also mean that the number of urban jobless, estimated to reach five million by the end of this year, will worsen significantly.
The labour experts were not optimistic about future employment opportunities.
Xinhua reported that more than 30 million workers had found jobs in cities in the past 10 years.
These, however, represented both new jobs and positions vacated by retirees.
''State-owned enterprises have been over-stuffed with workers, and need to be streamlined,'' Xinhua reported.
''The Government hopes to have [the unemployed] placed in their local township enterprises.'' At the same time, the Labour Ministry was drafting a series of laws and policies to ''adjust and control'' the jobless rate.
The semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency (HKCNA) reported last night that enterprises which planned to lay off workers ''in a concentrated and large-scale fashion'' would have to pay the Government ''placement fees'' to handle the unemployed.
Beijing would also use laws and ''executive means'' to prevent enterprises from firing ''aged employees'' or hiring labourers from the countryside.
Unemployment insurance funds will be set up at the central and provincial levels.
The HKCNA said that when unemployment in a specific city had reached a danger point and unemployment funds were depleted, the locality could get help from Beijing and the provinces.
Bankrupt enterprises must guarantee that a specific share of earnings from the sale of their assets be used to place or compensate laid-off workers.
The Government, employers and employees will be asked to contribute to the job insurance funds.
Analysts said Beijing, with a budget deficit of at least 20 billion yuan (HK$17.98 billion), would be hard pressed to establish a sizeable unemployment fund soon.
This would mean a retardation of ''socially disruptive'' reforms such as declaring chronically loss-making factories bankrupt.
Beijing will also use strict fiats - including the forced expulsion of illegal residents from urban centres - to discourage the migration of rural people to the cities.
Party sources said ways of tackling unemployment would feature prominently in the coming Fourth Plenum of the Central Committee.
''The need to keep unemployment within socially acceptable limits is at odds with efforts to liberalise the management of state enterprises, another goal of the plenum,'' a source said.