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China Struggles to Help Quake Survivors Get Back to Work

Kang Hui filled out the registration form for a construction company at a job fair. He felt he would be a good fit, given his skills.

The 40-something Kang was "laid off" after the construction company he formerly worked in suspended operations after the May 12 Sichuan Province earthquake.

"I came to seek a job so as not to be a burden to my family or society," said Kang. He said he had attended several such fairs organized for quake survivors in Dujiangyan City, a badly-hit part of Sichuan.

Anyone who registered, so long as they were quake survivors, would get a job, said Yan Kaimin, Chengdu Construction Engineering Group's deputy general manager, at the latest job fair in the city.

"We offered more than 1,000 jobs this time to help quake-hit residents be self-reliant and solve the problem of earning a living," Yan said.

The powerful quake probably left 370,000 people with no way to earn a living. Their employers suspended operations or their family businesses were destroyed.

Their situation will mean unprecedented employment pressure, according to the Sichuan Labor and Social Security Department.

In addition, about 1.15 million rural people in Sichuan lost their farms, their primary income.

So far, 21 job fairs have been organized in Dujiangyan and at some resettlement sites, offering more than 3,000 positions, said Guo Yigang, the Dujiangyan City Employment Bureau's director and one of the fair's organizers.

However, the results were mixed. Rebuilding means there should be lots of work, but not everyone is willing to do it. In Dujiangyan, as of June 7, some 17,687 jobs had been offered, but only 1,419 people had found positions.

"The attitudes of quake zone residents were rather complicated," said Tu Xingyue, an official in charge of job introduction of the bureau.

Some who had jobs before the quake had a wait-and-see attitude, some had no basic skills, some did not want to leave the region to work and yet others wanted easier, better-paid positions, Tu said.

The province has tried other means to get people back to work.

Here in the provincial capital, all positions in public welfare will be offered first to quake survivors. And those who go hunting for work on their own can get a subsidy of 2,000 yuan (US$289).

In Leigu Town, Beichuan County, another badly-hit area, more than 200 local residents are helping build housing at a resettlement site.

"It is better to pay young adults to participate in reconstruction than let them wait for relief in tents," said Wang Disheng, a chief in charge of the housing construction in Leigu.

Meanwhile, developed provinces such as Guangdong and Zhejiang have offered more than 20,000 labor positions to Sichuan residents.

The province cannot deal with the severe employment situation solely on its own. Nationwide help is needed, Chen Pu, the Sichuan labor and social security department's deputy chief, said.

Enterprises from other places, especially the developed areas, should be encouraged to recruit workers in the quake zone, Chen said, and more local workers should be employed in reconstruction projects.

(Xinhua News Agency June 19, 2008)

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