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News from China
Jobless rate falls in Q1 in boost to economy
26th April 2017

 fficial data showed that 3.34 million new jobs were created in the first quarter and the unemployment rate fell to 3.97 percent.

The number of new jobs was 160,000 higher than that in the same period of last year, and the unemployment rate was down 0.07 percentage points from a year earlier and 0.05 percentage points lower compared with the previous quarter.
“China’s job market posted a strong start this year and remained stable in the first quarter,” Lu Aihong, spokesman for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said at a press conference.
Economists said the lower jobless rate suggested a healthier picture for the Chinese economy.
From January to March, job vacancies rose 7.8 percent year on year while applicants increased 2.1 percent, according to data from the ministry.
“The need for workers is particularly pressing in the manufacturing sector,” said Zhang Yizhen, vice minister of human resources and social security.
China’s manufacturing sector in March stayed above the boom-bust mark for the eighth month in a row, reinforcing the message conveyed by increased industrial business profits and shedding light on economic restructuring progress.
Meanwhile, employment picked up as more people came back for work after the Chinese New Year. According to a poll conducted by the ministry of 3,314 companies, the number of workers in these firms increased 4.6 percent to over 2 million, compared with the 1.93 million before the holiday.
“The string of employment data is in line with macro-economic data released earlier,” said Zhou Tianyong, professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
China’s better-than-expected 6.9 percent economic growth in the first quarter has once again proved that the world’s second-largest economy remains an important engine driving global growth.
The reading, the fastest increase in 18 months, was above the full-year target of 6.5 percent and the 6.8 percent increase registered in the fourth quarter of 2016.
“If you look at the structure of the economy, the service industry is creating more jobs,” said Lu.
China’s service sector expanded 7.7 percent year on year in the first quarter, up 0.1 percentage points compared with a year ago. It accounted for 56.5 percent of the country’s GDP.
While the employment data pointed to an optimistic economic outlook, challenges remain, experts said.
There are both quantitative and structural problems. On the one hand, over 15 million people, including nearly 8 million college graduates, will enter the job market this year. However, technical and skilled workers are badly needed.
The government has rolled out an array of pro-employment policies for college graduates, laid-off workers from glutted industries, and migrant workers, while the country’s entrepreneurial wave has also helped job creation.
According to Chen Yu, vice director of the China Association of Employment Promotion, the key lies in the implementation of those policies.
For example, banks sometimes still require a guarantor who works in a government agency for entrepreneurs applying for loans, making the process more complex than needed.
Authorities should step up policy support, including further tax cuts while allocating more subsidies to small and medium enterprises, which provide more than 75 percent of urban jobs, Zhou said.
Additionally, China’s social security system has improved and benefited more people, Lu said.
The population covered under social insurance schemes such as pensions and health insurance continued to expand while insurance fund revenue maintained stable growth, Lu said.
Yesterday’s data also showed that gross revenue of social insurance funds rose 26.9 percent year on year to 1.53 trillion yuan (US$222 billion) at the end of March, while gross expenditures were 1.18 trillion yuan, up 21.7 percent from a year ago.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 26, 2017
China tightens steel firms scrutiny
25th April 2017

 CHINA removed 29 steel plants from a “normal list” and urged 40 others to reform to help cut overcapacity and enhance the industry’s competitiveness, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology yesterday.

Most of the 29 companies were considered inefficient, engaged in illegal production or were heavily debt-laden, while some “stopped operations to echo the national call to cut supply,” the ministry said. Another 40 steel companies were urged to cut pollution and upgrade equipment.
The ministry listed 304 steel companies as normal between 2013 and 2015 based on standards in environmental protection, quality, energy consumption and safety, the ministry said. But it will “keep monitoring the industry and re-select normal companies to ensure competitiveness of the industry,” it said.
The 29 companies will have “to be seriously supervised by local authorities” although they can continue to their operations, the ministry said.
The ministry can close the companies if they fail to meet quality and are not efficient after they have been supervised.
The other 40 firms were given “yellow card” warnings after they failed to meet environmental protection or safety rules. They would be stripped of the normal classification if they don’t improve within one year.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 25, 2017
7-nation deal to increase rail freight
24th April 2017

 RAILWAY authorities of China, Belarus, Germany, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Poland and Russia have signed an agreement to deepen cooperation on China-Europe freight rail services, according to China Railway Corp.

The agreement serves the Belt and Road initiative, expands the market share of rail freight between Asia and Europe and drives economic development and trade cooperation for counties along the route.
The countries will jointly push for better railway infrastructure for a safe, smooth, fast, convenient and competitive rail route, according to the agreement.
Information technology will boost train speed and unified service. Information sharing platforms will be built to ensure transport safety.
The countries will expand the rail services to more areas with faster customs clearance. A joint work team and expert team will be formed to solve problems.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 24, 2017
Central SOEs vow to continue cuts
21st April 2017

 CHINA’S central government-administered state-owned enterprises have vowed to continue to cut output overcapacity in some industrial sectors, aiming to reduce steel capacity by 5.95 million tons and coal by 24.73 million tons.

“Detailed plans have been made by central SOEs,” said an insider who prefers to remain anonymous.
For example, China Huaneng Group, a power company, is considering cutting 9.14 million tons of coal production capacity by the end of 2018 while dealing with 16 of the group’s “zombie companies.”
China Poly Group Corp, a state-run conglomerate, has vowed to close inefficient coal mines and reorganize 39 of its subordinate companies to improve profits.
The latest efforts by the central SOEs will reinforce their achievements made in 2016 in reducing overcapacity.
Last year, the central SOEs eliminated steel production capacity by more than 10.19 million tons and coal capacity by over 34.97 million tons, both beating annual targets.
The capacity cut drive by central SOEs is only a part of China’s bigger picture in slashing overcapacity.
The country aims to curtail steel production capacity by around 50 million tons and coal by at least 150 million tons this year, a key part of the country’s supply-side reform.
To improve its growth quality and efficiency, China began its supply-side structural reform in 2015 to cut overcapacity, reduce inventory, deleverage, lower costs and strengthen weak links.
“China’s SOE reform is an important link in pushing forward supply-side structural reform,” said Li Jin, chief researcher with the China Enterprise Research Institute.
Realizing the significance of SOEs to the country’s sustainable growth, China launched a series of reforms including cutting capacity, managing “zombie companies,” cutting excessive layers of hierarchy and calling for innovation among these firms.
Overcapacity, poor corporate governance and low labor productivity had dragged down profits of China’s SOEs, which deteriorated in 2015.
In 2016, China’s central SOEs cut 2,730 subsidiary legal entities and saved 4.91 billion yuan in management costs, according to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, the SOE watchdog.
Thanks in part to the efforts, China’s central SOEs saw profits rise slightly. Growth last year picked up from a 5.6 percent drop in 2015.
In 2016, central SOEs made total profits of 1.23 trillion yuan (US$179 billion), up 0.5 percent year on year, according to the SASAC.
This year, China pledged in its annual government work report to deepen SOE reform, such as introducing a mixed-ownership system and more efforts to make SOEs leaner, healthier, and perform better.
Source: Shanghai Daily, April 21, 2017

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