Li Keqiang: China’s employment situation is “complex and serious”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang – the No. 2 in the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s hierarchy – described the employment situation as “complex and serious”.

In a statement on Saturday, he called on all levels of government to prioritize measures to boost employment and maintain stability. These measures include helping small businesses survive, supporting the internet economy, providing incentives to encourage people to start their own businesses and paying unemployment benefits. to dismissed workers.

“Employment stabilization is essential for people’s livelihoods and is the main support for the economy to operate within a reasonable range,” Li said.

His remarks come at a time when the unemployment rate in the country has soared to the highest rate in nearly two years, according to government data.

Every year, China must create millions of new jobs to keep the pace of the economy going. The government has set a target of creating at least 11 million jobs in cities and towns by 2022. But Li said in March he hoped the economy could generate more than 13 million jobs. this year, citing the need to accommodate university graduates and rural migrant workers.

Li, who handles economic management in China, has made repeated calls to stabilize employment in recent weeks, and his comments over the weekend are a stark reminder of the cost of China’s Covid restrictions.

As the highly transmissible variant of Omicron spreads rapidly in China, the country grapples with its worst outbreak in more than two years. So far, at least 27 Chinese cities are under full or partial lockdown, which could affect up to 185 million people across the country, according to CNN’s latest calculations.

More than two years into the pandemic, President Ji Xinping is stepping up his tough zero Covid policy even as the rest of the world tries to learn to live with the virus. This involves mandatory mass testing and strict lockdowns.

Xi said Thursday that China would punish anyone who questions those policies.

The shutdowns have brought the world’s second-largest economy “close to breaking point”, according to a recent report by analysts at Societe Generale.

In April, China’s gigantic services sector contracted at the second-fastest pace on record as Covid lockdowns hit small businesses hard. Its manufacturing sector has also contracted sharply.
The most recent government data shows unemployment hit a 21-month high in March, and that was before China extended a lockdown on Shanghai’s financial hub and imposed tough restrictions on Beijing. The unemployment rate in 31 major cities even hit a record high in March.
The country’s massive tech sector is also watching a unprecedented jobs crisis.
The once freewheeling industry has long been China’s main source of well-paying jobs, but big business is now believed to be downsizing on a scale never seen before as the government continues its crackdown on private businesses . The country’s top internet regulator said last month that the sector had not experienced such a crisis, but the topic is still widely discussed on Chinese social media.

Other industries, ranging from real estate to education, have also seen steep job losses in recent months.

Beijing is aware of the economic difficulties and particularly concerned about the risk of mass unemployment, which would undermine the legitimacy of the Communist Party. Early last month, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua called for “all-out efforts” to stabilize employment.

On April 28, the Communist Party’s Politburo pledged to roll out “significant measures” to support the internet economy and hinted at an easing of a year-long crackdown on the tech sector.

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