BEIJING -- A top Chinese Communist Party official on Tuesday called on private bosses to keep their workers on the payroll as he warned of the impact of "complex and severe" economic conditions on China's stability.
An estimated 20 million migrant workers have lost their jobs as demand for Chinese exports has dried up, creating social security risks.
The economy, and maintaining social stability, are at the top of the agenda of China's annual legislature meeting which begins this week.
"We encourage people from the non-public sector ... to shoulder their share of social responsibilities and work hard to ensure that no employees in their enterprises are laid off, or suffer pay cuts, or wage arrears, in order to create harmonious labour relations," Jia Qinglin told the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the nation's top advisory body.
Provincial and central government officials have urged State-owned enterprises to reduce salaries in order to keep workers employed and limited State-owned firms' abilities to fire large groups of workers.
"Reassuring (the people) is an important way the government maintains stability," said Jia.
"We must face the complex and severe economic situation. We must do everything in our power to resolve issues affecting the well-being of the people and promote social harmony and stability."
Entrepreneurs at the CPPCC opening ceremony also sounded a cautious note on the economy, although they were careful to support China's goal of maintaining 8 percent growth.
"Before, we said that when the winter was over, the spring would be better. Now it's springtime, but I can't confirm we're out of the woods yet," said Liu Yonghao, founder and chairman of the board of New Hope Group.
New Hope Group, China's largest private agricultural firm, planned to add 5,000 employees to its rolls, Liu added.
"We unequivocally supported the Party and government in dealing with the destructive, disruptive, violent and illegal incidents in Lhasa, Tibet, and other areas in accordance with the law," Jia said.
"We will.... consolidate and strengthen ethnic unity and religious harmony."