Tung Chee-hwa warned yesterday that the unemployment rate would continue to rise in the near future, with low-skilled and vulnerable people suffering 'great pain'. The Chief Executive said experience in other countries showed the process of economic restructuring could take several years. 'The weak external economy makes the process more difficult,' he told a briefing session hosted by the Government on the $300 million Community Investment and Inclusion Fund, a scheme announced in his Policy Address last October. 'We can predict the unemployment rate will continue to rise over a period of time,' he said. 'To many people, in particular the low-skilled and vulnerable sectors, it will cause great pain.' Mr Tung said the Government's top priority was to help create jobs by stimulating the economy, improving the business environment and attracting investment. He said the Government would strengthen job training to improve the skills and competitiveness of the workforce. The unemployment rate rose to a record high of 6.7 per cent last week. Unionists and analysts warned it could hit 7.5 per cent by the summer. Mr Tung said the fund would promote a sense of common purpose and belonging in the community. 'We will adhere to our commitment on social services. But in order to build a caring and loving society, [we] cannot rely solely on the Government,' he said. 'At a time when we face a huge deficit, we need to mobilise everyone to participate.' He said the Government hoped to boost co-operation with non-governmental organisations through the new fund. Speaking separately to a group of social workers, Mr Tung admitted unemployment was more serious among young people, attributing it to the lack of Form Four school places. Pledging to steer Hong Kong to a knowledge-based economy, he said the administration would speed education reform to provide more opportunities for young people.