10 million new jobs on way, vows Chinese Premier

10 million new jobs on way, vows Chinese Premier
Premier Li Keqiang speaks during a meeting with representatives from the business sector on Monday in Beijing. Li sought their opinions on the Government Work Report

Premier Li Keqiang pledged on Monday to create at least 10 million jobs this year by maintaining economic growth at medium-to-high speed through stable macroeconomic policies.

He said job creation remains the most important index in drafting the country's target for economic growth, which many experts believe will slow further this year to about 7 per cent from 7.4 per cent.

Li made the jobs pledge at a meeting with economic experts and corporate leaders from burgeoning industries such as Internet and information technology, as well as industries with overcapacity.

The meeting, held to gauge opinions on the government's policies and its Annual Work Report this year, lasted for more than two and a half hours.

Li said China is expecting a new urban labour force of more than 16 million this year and a rural labour force of 6 million, meaning the government has to create at least 10 million new jobs in 2015.

"Stress tests show the possibility of a large amount of unemployment, which could lead to social instability if the economy cools down too fast," he said.

China created 13 million new urban jobs last year, with both the registered and surveyed unemployment rates lower than in 2013.

Li said rural residents, which make up about two-thirds of the population, earn more than half of their annual income from part-time jobs in cities. This has made job creation, especially for these residents, so important.

"As the European Union is joining other areas in quantitative easing, it is becoming increasingly difficult for China to remain unchanged in its fiscal and monetary policy," Li said.

"But it is important to do so, since we must give the market a stable expectation."

Monday's meeting was the first of three symposiums to be held seeking suggestions on the Work Report, which Li is due to deliver at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in March.

The report will include major economic and social development targets for 2015, including targets for economic growth, job creation, the consumer price index and others.

Wu Xiaoling, deputy director of the Financial and Economic Committee of the National People's Congress, who spoke at the meeting, agreed on the need for a generally prudent monetary policy, but said this has to be flexible sometimes to avoid risks.

She urged the government to be cautious on the wording of the Work Report to avoid misleading the market into thinking the authorities are poised to either cut or increase banks' reserve requirement ratio and interest rates.

"The Chinese capital market is not lacking liquidity. What it lacks is a channel where money can be guided into the right places," said Wu, a former deputy governor of the People's Bank of China.

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