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Premier stresses jobs, livelihoods at news conference

Updated: May 29,2020 11:11 PM

Premier Li Keqiang stressed efforts to ensure people’s livelihoods while speaking with the media on May 28.

He mentioned ensuring people’s livelihoods more than a dozen times during the two-hour news conference, and listed measures to help low-income groups, people living in poverty and other key groups, and to pay pensions in full and on time.

A reporter said China planned to win its battle against poverty this year, but because of COVID-19, many families have seen a decline in their household income, and some are even at the risk of falling back into poverty. She asked whether China can still fulfill the task of winning the battle against poverty this year, and what the government plans to do to meet people’s essential needs.

Premier Li said China is a developing country with a big population, and the per capita annual disposable income in China is 30,000 yuan. But there are still some 600 million people earning medium or low incomes, or even less. Their monthly income is barely 1,000 yuan.

One thousand yuan is not even enough to rent a room in a medium Chinese city. And because of COVID-19, many families have encountered more difficulties, he said, adding that it is a very high priority on the government’s work agenda to meet the essential needs of vulnerable groups and families who have encountered new difficulties because of COVID-19.

And a fairly big part of the support policies are designed for this very purpose, he said.

He continued, before COVID-19 struck, there were some 5 million people living below the poverty line. But now some may have fallen back into poverty.

Hence China now faces a greater task in meeting its goal. But with multi-pronged policies and measures to ensure the essential needs of the people, China has the confidence to win the battle against poverty this year, the Premier stressed.

Employment matters the most in people’s lives, and it is something of paramount importance for all families, Premier Li said, answering questions on how to prevent unemployment.

The Premier told a story about a rural migrant worker in his 50s. Over the past 30 plus years, he had been working in cities. But so far this year he has been unable to find a job, and the whole family is now in difficulty. Many self-employed individuals have seen their businesses grinding to a halt for several months. And some export companies have also been in great difficulty due to lack of orders. This in turn is affecting the jobs of their employees.

The country must provide support to all these people, but most important, the country must help them land jobs, Premier Li said, and added there is a labor force of 900 million in China. If they are out of work, there will be 900 million mouths to feed; if they are all put to work, 900 million pairs of hands will be able to generate tremendous wealth.

He added that in order to retain existing jobs, all pro-job measures will be fully employed with the largest input of funds. Sizable policy funds can be used by primary-level governments to implement tax and fee cuts, and subsidize rents or interest payments in support of companies. All these measures are designed to keep companies in business and secure the jobs of their employees, and they will be implemented in a fair and reasonable way.

China will also finance skills training initiatives by businesses to stabilize employment. This year and next, the country will tap into the balance of the unemployment insurance fund to provide some 35 million vocational skills training opportunities. This will cushion the impact of unemployment, and the government will help people who lose their jobs get re-employed as soon as possible.

Premier Li also said efforts should be made to create new jobs. He added that about 100 million people are employed in new forms of business and industry, and some 200 million people are working in the gig economy. The government must continue to provide support and at the same time lift all unwarranted restrictions that prevent the development of those industries and sectors, and to create a favorable environment to increase new job opportunities. Last year, more than 10,000 new businesses were created on an average day, and efforts will be made to see that the figure stays at that level this year, he stressed.

Premier said that China can certainly rely on the innovation and initiative of the Chinese people in this respect.

One may recall when young people returned to the cities from the countryside in large numbers in the early days of reform and opening-up, roadside tea stands helped to put many of them to work, he said.

He added that about two weeks ago, he saw in the news that a city in China’s western region, in keeping with local rules and regulations, set up 36,000 mobile stalls, adding some 100,000 new jobs overnight.

Chinese people are hard-working and the Chinese market keeps expanding and upgrading, he said.

The Premier stressed that the government must focus on providing support to key groups in their employment.

The number of new college graduates will reach a record high of 8.74 million this year, and employment services should be provided, both this year and next, so that they will not be left to their own devices. And for rural migrant workers, no matter where they are working, in a city or in their hometown, employment service platforms should support their job search. And support measures should be fully implemented for demobilized military personnel as well.

In responding to COVID-19 this year, the government should make thoughtful and meticulous plans to ensure the basic needs of all vulnerable groups, and expand the coverage of subsistence allowance and unemployment benefits, according to the Premier.

He added that some 60 million people in China still live on subsistence allowance or receive unemployment benefits, penury assistance, or other relief or support, and a big increase in the number of recipients is expected this year. But the country has sufficient funds to support the vulnerable groups.

“We must use the money wisely to ensure that every cent will be well spent,” the Premier said.

In addition, some 300 million senior Chinese citizens live on their pensions, and the government has decided to raise the pensions for these retirees this year and will fully deliver on all the commitments, Premier Li said.

Actions count, and actions always speak louder than words, he said.

Balance in the social security fund is sufficient to ensure that pension benefits will be paid on time and in full, and there should be no loopholes in the operation of the fund. Thus, the government will be able to give Chinese people more hope about their future. More important, the Chinese have a tradition of respecting and taking care of the elderly, and the government must ensure that all the benefits and support will be duly provided.

As the saying goes, the people are the foundation of a state, and when the foundation is strong, the state will be secure, Premier Li said. So the government must fully deliver on all policies and measures, and will make people more hopeful about their future.