Chinese premier promises 13 million jobs to reverse crisis

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese government hopes to create up to 13 million new jobs this year to help reverse a painful economic crisis, but faces “many difficulties and challenges,” the country’s No. 2 said Friday.

Forecasters said the ruling Communist Party is expected to struggle to meet its official target of 5.5% annual economic growth, its lowest level since the 1990s.

That would be a sharp drop from last year’s 8.1% expansion at a time when China is under self-imposed pressure from a debt crackdown. outbreak during the war in Ukraine.

Premier Li Keqiang has pledged “pro-employment policies” including tax and fee cuts totaling $400 billion for businesses, especially small entrepreneurs. He said if it works, “we’re ready to step it up.”

China’s workforce is shrinking and has fallen almost 5% from its peak in 2011.

But efforts to control debt in the vast real estate sector last year triggered a slump in home sales and construction, which support millions of jobs, raising the prospect of a politically dangerous surge in housing. unemployment.

As economic growth fell to 4% year on year in the final quarter of 2021, leaders responded by easing longer-term measures to reduce debt and foster self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption rather than growth. trade and investment.

“China aims to create 11 million – or preferably 13 million – urban jobs by 2022,” Li told a nationally televised press conference after the annual meeting of China’s ceremonial legislature closed.

He said the total number of job seekers this year is estimated at 16.6 million, including a record 10.6 million university graduates. The government must also ensure that nearly 300 million rural migrant workers in cities have jobs, he said.

The world’s second-largest economy added 12.7 million jobs last year, up from 11.9 million in 2021, according to previously released government data.

Forecasters expect the economy to weaken further before rebounding mid-year. A recovery is expected to take longer than usual due to Beijing’s willingness to avoid relying on its traditional tool of encouraging real estate investment, which could drive up debt and housing costs. . Efforts to end coronavirus outbreaks are also slowing recovery.

The prime minister said he was confident that official economic goals can be achieved, but warned that China was also struggling with debt, global warming and a chasm between its elite and the poor majority.

“The situation we face is still complex and serious, and there are still many difficulties and challenges,” he said.

Li expressed hope for better relations with Washington but announced no concessions in a tariff war over Beijing’s tech ambitions.

Trade envoys from both sides have spoken by phone since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, but have not announced plans for face-to-face talks.

“We always hope the two sides will respect each other, coexist peacefully and cooperate for win-win results,” Li said.

China was the first major economy to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, but annual growth has steadily declined over the past decade. The International Monetary Fund and private sector forecasters expect growth as low as 4.3% this year.

Meanwhile, investors are watching nervously to see if one of China’s biggest developers, Evergrande Group, can avoid defaulting on $310 billion in debt.

Li said Chinese business leaders had talked about backing tax cuts as the fastest way to create jobs instead of government investing or handing out vouchers to households to boost consumer spending. .

“We should rely on market-oriented ways and means to solve employment-related problems,” Li said.

Also on Friday, Li said he planned to step down next year at the end of his second five-year term as prime minister.

This is in line with the ruling party’s tradition since the 1990s of leaders handing over power to a younger generation once a decade, but President Xi Jinping is expected to challenge this by getting himself nominated for a third term as head of the party. left this year.

In this photo released by Chinese news agency Xinhua, delegates attend the closing session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday, March 11, 2022. (Shen Hong/ Xinhua via AP)


In this photo released by Chinese news agency Xinhua, delegates attend the closing session of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday, March 11, 2022. (Xing Guangli/ Xinhua via AP)

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