Officials won't revise their forecast, but academics say the figure could top 10pc Beijing will strive to keep its urban unemployment rate at 4.5 per cent this year despite the setback to the job market caused by Sars, says Minister of Labour and Social Security Zheng Silin. But academics warn that the real jobless figure is far higher than the statistics show, and could even top 10 per cent. In an interview carried yesterday by Study Times, a Communist Party publication, Mr Zheng said the government would not revise its unemployment forecast, which was made at the beginning of the year. According to government forecasts, the unemployment rate is expected to rise from 4 per cent last year to 4.5 per cent. Many economists have painted a gloomy picture of the job market this year due to the damage Sars inflicted on fast-growing sectors such as tourism, transportation and restaurants. Mr Zheng acknowledged the adverse impact of Sars, but said the government would meet its target of creating eight million jobs. The city's government hopes that sectors which benefited from Sars, such as medical equipment makers and vendors, cleaning services and the pharmaceutical industry, would absorb jobless people, he said. Scholars said the statistics did not fully reflect the extent of damage done by Sars, or the real number of people without work. The urban unemployment rate only covers residents who have registered with government agencies as unemployed. It does not cover rural residents or xiagang workers laid off from state enterprises and only receiving a small proportion of their salaries. Cai Fan, director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' institute of population studies, said the unemployment problem was much worse this year, despite what the figures say. A large number of rural migrants and xiagang workers had lost their jobs recently and it would take months for the service sector to recover and provide more jobs, he said. Many academics have argued that the urban unemployment rate could leap to 7 to 10 per cent should migrant workers and xiagang workers be included in the statistics. Mo Rong, deputy director of the Institute of Labour Studies under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, said the government kept the forecast of 4.5 per cent because the service sector was recovering and many people who lost their jobs were now employed. However, he said people's incomes would suffer, a fact not reflected by the jobless figures.