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20 million migrant workers return home jobless

ABOUT 20 million migrant workers became jobless due to China's economic slowdown, a senior official said today, just one day after the central government said rural stability was of "special significance" to the country's development this year.

About 15.3 percent of the country's more than 130 million migrant workers who flocked to the cities had to return home jobless before the Chinese Lunar New Year after export demand slumped, Chen Xiwen, Director of the Office of the Central Rural Work Leading Group, told a news conference in Beijing this morning.

The figures were based on a recent Ministry of Agriculture survey that covered 150 rural villages in 15 provinces that have the largest migrant populations, Chen said.

China's economy slumped to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter last year, taking the full-year figure to 9 percent, the worst performance since 2002.

Exports declined for the second straight month in December, dropping 2.8 percent, following a 2.2 percent decrease in November, the first such falloff in seven years.

Many factories in the export-driven southern China have closed, raising concerns that social stability in the rural areas may come under pressure, with unemployed migrant workers having no income to support their families, said Chen, who oversees the office that advises leaders for the country's 750 million farming population.

Local and central governments were urged to adopt measures to create jobs and increase rural incomes, according to the first document of the year issued by the State Council and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China yesterday.

Average net income of farmers had record gains last year by jumping 621 yuan to 4,761 yuan, Chen added.

A report by Chinese Academy of Sciences last month predicted that the annual income for farmers was expected to reach 5,177 yuan this year.

Chen also warned officials to properly handle disputes in rural areas, such as those over environment pollution and land disputes.

These disputes were mainly triggered because of corruptions among local officials and some governments' negligence of farmers' interest as they chase higher economic growth, Chen admitted.

Government officials should talk to the people face-to-face rather than sending policemen, which may escalate the problem, he continued.

Lessons should be learnt from past mass incidents and the voices of the people should be answered, Chen emphasized.


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