Li puts employment at top of the agenda

Li puts employment at top of the agenda

Premier Li Keqiang described the employment situation as his primary concern when he met the media on Thursday to wrap up the annual session of the national legislature. Li said the main reason for setting China's GDP growth target at around 7.5 per cent this year is to ensure employment, improve people's livelihoods and to increase urban and rural incomes.

He said China cares more about its people's livelihoods than mere figures. By the same token, it cares about employment more than growth.

Faced with increasing signs of a slowdown in economic growth, employment will be used as the main factor to determine whether to roll out contingency measures to stimulate the economy.

Observers said Li's comments are aimed at dispelling some economists' fears that the government may still be so obsessed with a high growth target that it is willing to hand out stimulus measures to boost the economy, as it did after the 2008 global financial crisis.

That stimulus package, while lifting the economy in the short term, left many after-effects that are still being felt today. These include a glut of overcapacity in some industries and mounting local government debts.

A Xinhua News Agency article said that although China's 7.5 per cent growth target is the same as in the previous year, its importance is fading as many believe the government will no longer view the figure as the necessary minimum as it usually did in the past.

Senior leaders and officials have on various occasions backed the macroeconomic control strategy featuring the concept of growth within "a proper range".

This entails a lower limit to ensure steady growth and job creation and an upper limit to avert inflation, and was first proposed by Li in July.

Finance Minister Lou Jiwei joined the calls last week for more comprehensive understanding of the growth target instead of merely fixating on the 7.5 per cent figure.

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