Academics are backing the legalisation of street hawking, saying it will ease pressure to create jobs and maintain social stability, which is important to the careers of many cadres in coastal cities. A week after the proposed regulation to legalise street vendors in designated areas was submitted for public consultation, Hong Kong academics supported the plan, which has triggered heated debate on the mainland. Joe Leung Cho-bun, professor of social administration at the University of Hong Kong, said the plan would create temporary prospects for low-skilled workers who had lost their jobs after their factories closed. Street hawking was a widespread practice on the mainland and legalising it could recognise the labour-intensive employment in times of economic crisis, he said. However, he warned that informal employment could not be relied on as a long-term policy as it offered no protection. Urban-registered unemployment was 4.2 per cent last year, but the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, put the real rate at 9.4 per cent. The academy estimated the jobless rate would rise to 10 per cent next year, compared with the 4.6 per cent forecast set by Beijing. Xinhua reported yesterday that there were 30 million street hawkers on the mainland. Chinese University of Hong Kong's economics professor Tsui Kai-yuen said the global recession, which had devastated mainland exports, had put many out of work. 'Putting them back to work, I guess, puts a lot of pressure on local cadres especially when maintaining social stability is important for their careers.' He said Beijing's stimulus plans this year 'lopsidedly' favoured state-owned enterprises. 'Their massive stimulus plans directed to capital-intensive projects submitted by urban investment corporations left many small and medium-sized enterprises finding it hard to get credit,' Professor Tsui said. He said boosting domestic consumption, investing in social security and providing more public housing would cut unemployment more significantly. 'There are better measures to create jobs and maintain social stability in the long run for people who are among the hardest hit.' Professor Leung said that although SMEs were hiring many workers, Beijing was unlikely to draw up further support measures to help those in coastal regions. He said this would go against the government's plan to upgrade the economy in the Pearl and Yangtze deltas by investing in hi-tech industries.