The Education Ministry has issued a circular urging schools to open job-training courses to laid-off workers and to provide special subsidies to their children. The urgent circular is being regarded as a further sign of the deteriorating employment situation. 'All schools will have to teach basic work skills to laid-off workers, and help them regain confidence in finding a job,' a ministry spokesman said yesterday, according to Xinhua. China had 1,000 universities and 700,000 middle and primary schools with the resources and facilities to help solve the unemployment problem, the spokesman said. Most of the laid-off workers were from state-owned firms and did not have the skills needed to work in modern industries, Xinhua said. Li Peilin, a personnel resources expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: 'The new measures are aimed at improving these people's job-seeking ability and to enable them to become familiar with market competition.' The Education Ministry also asked schools to provide special subsidies for children of laid-off workers, so they could meet tuition fees. A high proportion of the nation's 200 million students in middle and primary schools and the three million students in the universities could be forced to discontinue their education if no help was given, the ministry said. Authorities have adopted various measures, including the development of the service sector to create new jobs and the improvement of the social welfare system to minimise the impact on laid-off workers. Guangdong plans to re-train one million laid-off workers before 2000, officials said yesterday, with the focus falling on workers in the metallurgical, coal and textile industries.