A think-tank under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has forecast that China's unemployment could rise by 30 per cent a year over the next few years. An expert at the ministry's human resource research institute said that the unemployment rate – which only measures urban residents – could jump to 7 per cent from the current rate of 3.3 per cent. He also said that the problem would be exacerbated by the closure in 2003 of urban job centres. These were set up in 1998 to help laid-off workers find employment, but less than 20 per cent of them had found new jobs.
The ministry's third quarter survey of urban employment revealed 1.62m unemployed competing for 1.21m vacancies. The second quarter survey had found 2.22m unemployed and 1.54m vacancies.