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Creation of Jobs Still Top Priority

The local government will continue to invest in the creation of new jobs in Liaoning, even as the province finally says farewell to the unemployment problem that haunted it for too long, Chen Zhenggao, the provincial governor, said yesterday.

The urban registered unemployment rate was down to 4.4 percent last year, from 6.7 percent in 2003, Chen told reporters at a press conference during the annual meeting of the NPC, which opened yesterday in Beijing.

He said last year marked a "turning point" in dealing with the unemployment situation in the province.

Liaoning has traditionally been an industrial province, with much of its workforce employed by state-owned companies.

As the country rolled out its massive restructuring program for such firms, the number of unemployed in the province rose accordingly.

At one point in 2005, the number of zero-employment families in the province - those in which every member is out of work - stood at 143,000.

According to figures from the Liaoning provincial labor and social security department, some 1.38 million people were registered as unemployed at the beginning of 2006.

Chen attributed the latest success in creating jobs to economic development, as the government has launched a drive to revitalize the former industrial base, which had become something of a rust belt over recent years.

"It is impossible to solve the unemployment problem without steady economic development", he said.

The provincial government has also taken a "proactive employment policy" over recent years, he said.

In 2006, the province became the country's first to promise to find work for members of zero-employment families within 20 days of them registering at job centers, Chen said.

The move has guaranteed that there is "at least one employed person in every urban family", he said.

Many of them now have two wage earners, he added.

Last year, the provincial government spent 3.7 billion yuan (US$520 million) on the development of a work program to create jobs in the public sector.

"This year, we will spend an extra 100 million yuan to create a further 20,000 jobs," Chen said.

"Our efforts to tackle unemployment must continue year after year, month after month," he said.

Most of the 1.78 million workers who were laid off because of the restructuring of state-owned enterprises are now back at work, Chen said.

"Not only have we solved the problem for the people of Liaoning, but we have also attracted about 1.3 million migrant workers from other parts of the country," he said.

The province was faced with an "impossible mission", he said. "But we have triumphed."

(China Daily March 6, 2008)

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