China PSU reforms sparks protests

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Sat Mar 11 17:48:36 PST 2000

8 March 2000

China PSU reforms sparks protests BEIJING: China has been grappling with protests as economic reforms leave some retired and jobless workers without subsistence stipends, China's minister of labor acknowledged Tuesday. A shortage of government funds means that despite government measures to guarantee basic living standards and strengthen its job-retraining program, some unemployed workers get no help, the labor chief, Zhang Zuoji, told reporters at a briefing in conjunction with China's annual legislative session. Zhang declined to say how many labor protests took place in the last year or how seriously the country's social stability was shaken. China is entering the third year of a three-year program to make its debt-ridden state industries profitable. As millions of people have been laid off around the country there have been sporadic reports of protests by workers demanding wages, pensions or subsistence stipends. About 2 percent of China's 29 million retired people, some 500,000 to 600,000 people, did not get pensions on time or in full last year, Zhang said. In addition, about 600,000 to 700,000 workers did not get basic living allowances, including some in serious need, he said. The central government has earmarked more funds and is asking local governments to cover shortfalls, he said. "While pressing ahead with reform we must also retain social stability," added the minister in charge of the State Economic and Trade Commission, Sheng Huaren. When a protest occurs "we must address it immediately to make sure the whole situation remains stable". China had 6,599 large and medium state enterprises that were in the red when the reforms began in 1998 and has reduced that number by 49 percent, Sheng said. He claimed a "remarkable improvement" across the country, including in the northeast, where many state factories are concentrated. The goal of getting most companies out of debt by 2001 "could certainly be accomplished," he said. Some companies were reporting losses for the first time this year, but 40 percent of these had only small losses, Sheng said. Some of these new loss-makers were filing false reports in order to qualify for financial support, he added. Last year, China had 11.7 million laid-off workers and 5.2 million of them found new jobs, Zhang, the labor minister, said. This year, China expects 5 million more layoffs and so its total number of laidoff workers will remain the same as last year, he said. Government figures substantially understate the actual number of unemployed, which economists say may be as high as 18 million people, or 10 percent of the urban workforce. (Associated Press) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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