TIANJIN — A survey of 31 big- and medium-sized Chinese cities found the unemployment rate remained at around 5 percent in the first eight months of the year, despite an economic slowdown, Premier Li Keqiang said on Sept 10.
It was the first time China formally disclosed a surveyed urban unemployment rate.
“More than 9.7 million urban jobs were created (up to the end of August), which is over one hundred thousand more compared with the same period last year,” Li said in a keynote speech at the opening of the Summer Davos forum.
China introduced the registered urban unemployment rate in the 1980s as an important indicator for macroeconomic adjustment. But critics have questioned its accuracy saying it understates the true unemployment rate.
The survey rate counts only permanent urban residents who register for unemployment benefits with local governments. It is not based on representative sample surveys. It also excludes temporary residents in cities.
In the first half of this year, the registered urban unemployment rate stood low at 4.08 percent, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
The surveyed unemployment rate disclosure came more than a month after the cabinet decided the statistics authority should employ a more extensive sample survey to more accurately compile the jobless rate in cities to better reflect true unemployment. It would allow policymakers to better understand the job market, the cabinet said.
Li told the forum, held in North China’s port city of Tianjin, that new steps for reform taken by the Chinese government have helped to create more jobs.
Since the beginning of this year, the Chinese government has sped up the reform of the administrative review and approval system.
More than 200 items have been removed or delegated to lower levels administrative approval. And the business registration reform, among others, has been carried out nationwide, the premier said.
This has lowered the threshold for starting businesses and removed restrictions on them, thus giving a great boost to business development in the whole country, Li said.
In the Jan-Aug period, the amount of newly-registered businesses was more than eight million. From March to August, with the business registration reform, the number jumped 61 percent over the same period last year, all pointing to an upsurge which has substantially generated jobs.
The government has also introduced reforms to the systems of financing, investment, taxation and logistics, and further opened the gate for the development of the service sector and other emerging industries.
All these measures have been vital in fostering and increasing job opportunities, the premier said.
Li also said that an important goal of China maintaining stable economic growth is to ensure employment, and the floor of the proper growth range is to ensure adequate employment.
China’s GDP expanded 7.4 percent from a year ago in the first half of this year, compared with an annual growth target of around 7.5 percent for the full year.
The actual economic growth rate is within the proper range, even if it is slightly higher or lower than the 7.5-percent target, the premier said.
As the economy continues to expand, growth will mean more jobs and there will be greater tolerance for fluctuations, he added.