The government has set a target of restricting urban unemployment to 4.5 per cent this year, Beijing Youth Daily said. The rate was 4 per cent at the end of 2002, but this year employers are expected to increase the numbers of lay-offs and re-employment is becoming more difficult, according to the report. However, officials have previously said that the actual urban unemployment figure is around 7 per cent, and unofficial researchers have put the figure much higher than that.
Overall, more than 22m people join the urban workforce each year, but only 8m new jobs are created, leaving 14m without jobs. In addition, around 20 per cent of the 800m rural population are estimated to be surplus and available for work.
Vice-minister of labour Zhang Xiaojuan told China Daily that urgent solutions were needed to address the problem of unemployment. He urged local governments to work to expand employment, as the supply of labour will greatly exceed demand in future.