China pledges "employment first" policies to create millions of new jobs

Job seekers attend a career fair in Zhengzhou University in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China November 17, 2017. Picture taken November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will boost its job creation effort and promote entrepreneurship this year, a spokeswoman for the top state planner said on Sunday, under pressure to find work for millions of unemployed people and new college graduates.

Meng Wei of the National and Development Reform Commission (NDRC) said China needs to create jobs for 9.7 million people registered as unemployed and 8.2 million new college graduates, as well as workers affected by industrial capacity cuts.

China’s urban-registered unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent last year and has remained generally stable despite slowing economic growth and the government forging ahead with plans to cut back industrial capacity.

Many analysts say, however, that the official data is an unreliable indicator of employment conditions because it only measures employment in urban areas and does not take into account the millions of migrant workers who form the bedrock of China’s labor force.

“We will implement an employment-first strategy and more proactive employment policies...and vigorously promote employment and entrepreneurship,” Meng told a news conference on Sunday, adding that protecting jobs was fundamental to China’s stable growth policy.

Authorities are counting on “new growth engines” such as technology and services to support job creation.

Meng said China will create a policy environment that supports the digital economy and will promote the big data, artificial intelligence and industrial internet sectors.The NDRC will also improve policies to support the growth of private firms, building on examples of successful policies from around the country, she noted.

Reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Eric Meijer