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Feb 2, 2009

China fears trouble from 20m jobless migrants

Twenty million rural migrants are jobless in China because of the economic downturn, prompting fears in Beijing of social unrest by an army of unemployed workers.

As the Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, laid the blame for the downturn at the door of the West, Chen Xiwen, the top policy official on agriculture, revealed that 15.3 per cent of the 130 million migrants moving from farms and villages to cities and factories – about one in seven – had now returned without jobs to the countryside. That is double an official estimate given a month ago. Mr Chen acknowledged the threat posed by masses of workers going home without an income.

China has a rural population of 750 million, many of whom rely on relatives in factories to send money home. “After they return to villages, what about their incomes? How will they live? That’s a new factor concerning social stability this year,” Mr Chen said.

The rise in unemployment prompted the Communist Party’s security chief to call for measures to prevent social unrest. Zhou Yongkang said that economic growth was essential to the nation’s stability.

The rise in rural unemployment has been exacerbated by the six to seven million new entrants expected to join the rural labour market this year. There are also many millions of urban jobless, for which the Chinese Government does not release figures.

The leadership is particularly determined to avoid trouble on the streets and eager for smooth celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule. Hundreds of “mass incidents”, or outbursts of discontent, shake China every day but most are too small or too local to be reported in the media.

The official number soared to 87,000 in 2005 but fell the next year. In the past two years the police have chosen not to release the statistics.

Source : Times Online
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