Photo by Don Domingo
One of the biggest threats to stability China could face is already starting to happen: millions of people, most of them migrant workers, are unemployed. Chen Xiwen, the vice head of the Central Finance and Economic Leading Group, released several disturbing figures on Monday (helpfully translated by Victor Shih):
Not long ago, the Ministry of Agriculture organized a survey which drew samples from 150 villages located in 15 provinces which exported more rural labor. The sample focused on the approximately 38.5% of rural labor who returned home before the lunar new year.
Of those who returned home, some 60.4% were home on regular visits to their family. That is to say that their jobs in the cities are still preserved, and they will return to their jobs after the holiday. Of those who returned home, 39.6% of the respondents reported that they lost their jobs or have not found a job, thus returning home.
According to these figures, of the 130 million rural labor who are working elsewhere, we think 15.3% in total have lost their jobs or have not found employment (in cities). According to the ratio of 15.3%, we can calculate that out of the 130 million of rural labor working elsewhere, approximately 20 million of them have lost their jobs or have not found employment due to economic unwellness.
China no longer posts exact figures for mass protests in the country, but Outlook, a weekly magazine published by the state-run Xinhua news agency, said in early January that this could be a record year for riots.
”Due to deepening economic difficulties and social security problems since the second half of 2008, enterprise close-downs, lay offs and labour disputes have significantly increased, triggering a rise in mass incidents,” it said.
”Economic pressures affect the sentiment of various social strata, and disadvantaged groups in particular are seeing their livelihood threatened. Their pent-up discontent could easily burst out … and spark mass conflicts.”
One of the ways the CCP is hoping to curb “incidents” is by expanding the 4 trillion yuan stimulus package it unveiled in November. The plan is already 20 percent of China’s GDP, but Premier Wen Jiabao said in an interview with the Financial Times that the government may sink even more money in.
“The financial crisis has not yet hit the bottom, and we will continue to follow very closely the development of the situation,” he told the FT.
“We may take further new timely and decisive measures…All these measures have to be taken preemptively before an economic recession, so as to maximize the desirable effect, otherwise our efforts will be wasted.”