A government survey revealed that 20 million migrant workers recently lost their jobs, posing the risk of social instability, a senior official said on Monday.
Some 15.3 percent of China's 130 million migrant workers became jobless, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The ministry conducted the survey in 150 villages, in 15 provinces, before Spring Festival, according to Chen Xiwen, director of the central rural work leading group, a central government advisory body.
Adding to the worsening situation is the fact that another 5 to 6 million new migrants join the job market annually.
"Therefore, about 25 million rural migrant workers will face huge pressure finding jobs this year," Chen said. "The increasing number of jobless migrant workers has posed a fresh threat to the social stability."
Chen's remarks came one day after the central government warned of "possibly the toughest year" since the turn of the century, in its first policy document this year, which called for development of agriculture and rural areas.
Since the third quarter of 2008, the global financial crisis has hit the labor-intensive export sector and thousands of factories in coastal areas have been shuttered.
Many experts warned that the rising unemployment rate could cause more social unrest and the government should be on the lookout for more mass incidents this year.
To tackle the jobs issue, three ministries have said in a joint circular that a special program will be created to beef up vocational training for migrant workers, college graduates and laid-off workers.
According to the circular issued on Sunday by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the training program will provide unemployed migrant workers with new skills that could help them find better jobs or open a business in their hometowns.
Local vocational schools and technical training institutions will be organized to offer lessons that can help migrant workers master skills needed in the railway and infrastructure construction.
The unemployed migrant workers will also be given central government subsidies as a way to encourage them to accept the lessons. The training program will be offered in 2009 and 2010.
For laid-off workers and unemployed migrant workers seeking jobs in cities, the circular urged local social security departments to provide three to six month training sessions.
Salaries of migrant workers contributed about 40 percent of rural families' income, so losing jobs means they could face the loss of a bulk of their income.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences forecast in a report last month that growth in farmers' net income this year would drop to 6.2 percent as the economy cooled.
Last month, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security estimated that the urban registered unemployment rate could be 4.6 percent this year, the worst since 1980.
The jobless rate, which excludes migrant workers, jumped for the first time in five years to 4.2 percent as of Dec 31.
During the fourth quarter of last year, the number of registered jobless urbanities increased to 8.86 million, 560,000 more than that in the third quarter.
Apart from migrant workers, some 7.1 million university graduates, too, are expected to face a hard time this year as the number of openings has been shrinking largely in cities.
College graduates without jobs will be given training related to their majors, the circular has said.