A man posts an employment notice on a billboard in a labor market in Zhuzhou, Hunan Province. Employers from local clothing factories have pledged to offer better pay and favorable working environments in a bid to alleviate the labor shortage amid complaints of rising labor costs and higher expectations by job seekers. Photo: CFP
The nation aims to create 45 million jobs and bring the annual urban unemployment rate under 5 percent by 2015, amid a lower pace of economic development and change of its growth pattern.
The Employment Growth Plan (2011-15), issued yesterday, is also committed to favorable policies aimed at encouraging small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to generate a greater number of jobs.
The employment situation is set to become much more complicated in the years to come, due to an increasingly prominent structural problem that has resulted in the labor force supply not meeting market demand.
The blueprint came amid a slowdown in Chinese economic growth. The country's GDP expanded by 9.2 percent in 2011, down from 10.3 percent in 2010, new figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics last month showed.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, economic growth slowed to a 10-quarter low of 8.9 percent year-on-year, according to the bureau.
A total of 57.71 million jobs were created in urban areas, and 45 million people in the rural surplus labor force were transferred to new jobs in cities during the 2006-10 period, when the urban registered unemployment rate hit 4.1 percent, official data shows.
Yao Yuqun, a professor of labor and human resources at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that the unemployment rate target set for the 12th Five-Year Plan period reflects the huge pressure on the job market, but is achievable.
"China now still maintains relatively fast growth compared with other economies in the world, and is capable of generating 45 million new jobs by 2015," said Yao.
The current calculation of the registered urban employment rate does not reflect the full picture of the job market, given that migrant workers are not included in the system, he said.
In the detailed blueprint, the central government required that special support be given to industries and enterprises that can create more jobs, vowing to make great efforts in developing SMEs while securing assistance for them.
About 80 percent of jobs were created by more than 50 million SMEs in China, according to official data. However, the development of these enterprises has been hindered due to the rise in labor costs and raw material prices, among other factors.
Wang Lina, a researcher with the Institute of Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that privately owned SMEs, which have absorbed the majority of the workforce, have been at a disadvantage for some time.
"Compared with State-owned enterprises (SOEs), the threshold is much higher for SMEs to get loans from State-owned banks, leaving them to struggle in an unfair climate. As a result, these companies are unable to generate more jobs," Wang said.
"We should change the status quo, in which SMEs contribute hugely to job creation, but have little say in the country's economic development," Wang noted.
She suggested that the government create more favorable conditions for the development of SMEs through tax cuts and low-interest loans.
A 15 billion-yuan ($2.4 billion) development fund has been set up recently to aid the growth of the country's troubled small enterprises, which will still be encouraged to take part in some government procurement projects.
According to the newly released plan, public finances should be tilted in favor of small- and micro-enterprises and labor-intensive industries in compliance with the country's policy direction. It also said that preferential tax policies beneficial to boosting employment would be implemented, a move expected to lighten the enterprises' tax burden.
The government also pledged to maintain an average 13 percent growth annually in the nation's minimum wage standard during the period to keep its level in most regions above 40 percent of the average wage of local urban employees.
The document further required that wage management in SOEs be reformed to narrow the wage gap among different industries, under which the wage management of high-ranking officials in SOEs and financial institutions will be strictly regulated.
The government scheme once again touched on the deteriorating employment situation facing university graduates, saying that this group should be given priority when trying to find employment and that SMEs are encouraged to recruit college graduates.
Official estimates have put the number of college graduates in 2012 at 6.8 million, more than six times than that in the early 2000s.
Yang Jingjie and Xinhua contributed to this story