New data collection plan to clarify job picture

Updated: 2014-07-31 07:16

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

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More scientific method will be used to determine unemployment rate

China will adopt a new method for determining the unemployment rate, basing data on random surveys, and the government will make the process public.

The method is more scientific than the current one that gauges registered unemployment rate, experts say.

The decision was made at the State Council's executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

Members said the new method could help decision-makers get a more comprehensive picture of the country's social and economic development, and thus help them clarify what macroeconomic policies would best support boosting employment.

It was agreed that now is the right time for the country to switch to the new method. The surveys will be conducted by the government's statistics departments.

And at the same time, the current registered unemployment rate method, conducted by the human resources and social security departments, will serve as a second official index for employment.

The new method will collect employment data through scientific sampling, a technique used in many countries. The current one calculates the unemployment rate based on the registered records from authorities, while the new way includes additional data.

Also, the new method covers migrant workers from villages, who were excluded in the registered method.

"The current method relies on people's initiative to report their joblessness to the governments, which makes it hard for the authorities to get an accurate picture," said Zheng Dongliang, a researcher at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Many people are reluctant to admit they lost their jobs, he said, adding that the new method helps the authorities dig out such information. The new method will have limited coverage right now, presenting the unemployment rate of major cities only - usually the capital cities of provinces. Thus, combining with the registered method is currently necessary, Zheng said.

"The numerical results from both methods have presented the same trend, meaning they can work together well for decision-makers," he said.

In a seminar with economists on June 11, Premier Li released the unemployment rate based on the random surveys, showing that unemployment declined over the past four months from 5.17 percent in March to 5.05 percent in June.

According to the registered method, the unemployment rate remained low at 4.08 percent in the first half of this year.

All the data showed a stable trend in employment, with little influence from the slowing growth, said Chen Yu, vice-president of the China Association for Employment Promotion. That may be explained by flexible forms of employment and the booming of the service industry, Chen said.