Sitting in the trading hall of a stock broker's in Beijing's Chaoyang district, Mr Sun was killing time by staring at the large electronic screen and reading his newspaper. Mr Sun, 44, was laid off from a collective enterprise two years ago. As finding a job is almost impossible for an unskilled male worker at his age, he decided to try his luck on the stock market. But he was not so lucky. The stocks he bought plummeted by 50 to 60 per cent in one year and the only thing he could do was hold the shares, hoping the market might bottom out. But Mr Sun knew his optimism was unrealistic. 'As long as the stock market is overshadowed by the expectation that the state is going to sell more shares, it is impossible to recover,' he said. 'State leaders think we have made money since the stock market was doing quite well a few years ago, but they do not know that we all lost a lot of money afterwards and now they want to squeeze more money from individual speculators like us. That is so unfair.' The grievances of Mr Sun and other speculators were one of the reasons the State Council decided to halt a plan to issue more state shares in a bid to raise money for social security funds. Government departments have been locked in a stand-off. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is eager to see an early resumption of sales to fill the large shortfall in social security funds, while the Ministry of Finance is wary about the stability of the stock market and the loss of state assets. The controversy has prompted Premier Zhu Rongji to leave the decision to the NPC, although many doubt if the real decision will be made inside the Great Hall of the People. State share sales and their pricing are expected to be the most controversial debates amid a relatively staid NPC session this year. Most analysts believe the Government will refrain from making major decisions ahead of the 16th Communist Party Congress in October. Individual speculators like Mr Sun are not impressed by the suggestion that issuing of state shares is a way to get the social security system moving. He sees the state as taking money from his pockets in the name of social security. 'People buy stocks because they have no choice. We have no jobs and the only thing we can do is to put our money in the stock market. It is like gambling,' he said. 'Now they are talking about selling state shares. The whole market will collapse if they really do this and I am sure there will be a lot of protests.' Nor did he believe that a laid-off worker like him would benefit if the profits were set aside to support the social security scheme, which aims to provide pensions and stipends to the jobless, sick and elderly. 'Imagine how much the state needs if it really wants to provide social security to all these people. Do you think selling state shares can really help?' Mr Sun said. He said he saw no hope as soon he would no longer be entitled to the state unemployment subsidy, which is given for two years after a person loses a job. 'I receive 300 yuan (HK$282) per month but I will soon get nothing. My child is now studying in high school and I now have to move to live with my parents to cut costs,' he said. But Mr Sun is lucky compared with Chen Lihua. Mr Sun's wife still has a stable job, but Ms Chen and her husband were both laid off from state enterprises three years ago. Ms Chen, 43, who used to work with a state transport company, is now a part-time housemaid and paid six yuan an hour. Her husband is unemployed. 'I can still work as a housemaid. But what can my husband do? He has been staying at home and looking after our child for the past few years. It is so common among laid-off workers in their 40s,' Ms Chen said. 'Now almost every family has at least one person who has been laid off from state enterprises and there are so many divorces and quarrels and so much domestic violence.'