China to add more than 50 million new urban jobs in 2016-2020: cabinet

People look at the schedule of a job fair for graduates of higher education and the general public in the centre of Shijianzhuang, Hebei province, China February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is striving to create more than 50 million new jobs in urban areas over the five years to 2020, the cabinet said in an employment promotion plan on Monday.

It will also aim to hold the urban registered unemployment rate below 5 percent in the same period, according to the document published on the central government’s website.

“Opportunities and challenges in promoting employment coexist,” the cabinet said.

The government has said 13 million new urban jobs were created in 2016, beating its target of 10 million.

The official unemployment rate has been hovering just over 4 percent in recent years, even as China’s economic growth slowed to 6.7 percent in 2016, its slowest in 26 years.

Under the banner of “supply-side” reform, Chinese leaders are trying to cut excess factory capacity in the steel and coal industries, but have tried to avoid an abrupt slowdown in the economy, for fear of mass job losses.

To create more jobs, the government will cultivate new growth drivers for the economy and develop “industries with strong employment capacity”, the cabinet said.

The government will support small businesses, labor-intensive manufacturing industries and services, using tax incentives and financial policy tools such as differentiated reserve requirements, it added.

The government will also back new industries such as information technology, high-end equipment, new materials, biotech and new energy vehicles, the cabinet said.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Kevin Yao; Editing by Sam Holmes and Clarence Fernandez