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Restructure capital's job market
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-12 08:59

A Beijing policy adviser has proposed setting up an "access system" for the inflow of labourers from other places into the capital at the third session of Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in January.

The proposal attracted an overwhelming response. Most of them were saying nay while only a few showed their agreement considering Beijing's increasingly serious social problems brought on by its expanding population.

Criticizing the discriminatory connotations in the proposal, many people begin to consider the issue of how to control the capital's population growth and solve related problems with a sober mind.

Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan said that the capital needs to place its population growth under control.

According to the city's development plan for 2004-20 passed by the State Council in January, Beijing will limit its population to about 18 million, with 13.5 million people with city residence permit by 2020. And the annual population growth should be kept below 1.4 per cent from the current 2.5 per cent.

Also, the plan said that Beijing should be developed into a city suitable for human living. It is the first time for the municipal government to put forward the target of building Beijing into a life-friendly city, mirroring the guidelines of building a harmonious society.

To reach the goal, Beijing needs to take effective measures to control its rapid population growth.

The development of market economy requires free mobility of population in a country.

Many regulations blocking the movement have been removed to meet the demands of the market economy.

If the government still sets obstacles to prevent free labour mobility, it will not only impair the city's development but also tarnish fairness and justice.

The government needs to adjust its policy on controlling population by resorting to market rules, said Zhang Chewei, deputy director of the Institute of Population and Labour Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Simply setting man-made obstacles to prevent people in other places from entering the capital is not a proper and effective mechanism to allow progress. The government should put its focus on providing helpful and effective services to facilitate orderly labour movement, according to Zhang.

Mao Shoulong, director of the Institute of Public Administration at the Beijing-based Renmin University, said setting an "access system" to control population growth will do no good to optimizing the population structure in the city.

If the "access system" requires a certain payment of fees, the quota of people staying in Beijing will be distributed to the group who can afford the payment, but might not be the labourers the capital badly needs. If the system stresses educational experiences, the situation will be similar.

In a market economy, it is not realistic and economical for the government to limit the mobility of labourers, Mao said.

If the municipal government wants to control the influx of people from other places, it can put its focus on adjusting the structure of the labour force in demand. With a clear orientation towards development, the city could modify its industrial structure, which will influence the labour market.

Sun Jiuwen, director of the Institute of Regional Economics and Urban Management at Renmin University, said that since Beijing hopes to grow into a centre of technology and science, culture and education, professionals in this regard will flow to the city. And now that the capital is planning to be life-friendly, employees in the service industry will also grow.

Liu Weixin, deputy director of the China City Economics Society, pointed out that since the central government is intending to turn the capital into an economic centre, Beijing should not develop its manufacturing industry further, which will attract too many labourers.

In this way, Beijing should focus on developing its sectors of technology and science, while transferring the role of economic development to Tianjin, another municipality in a distance of about 100 kilometres from Beijing and an industrial heavyweight with a long history, according to Liu.

Beijing needs a clear-cut definition on which basis its development will count. If both Beijing and Tianjin focus on developing the same sort of economy, it is a kind of waste. The two cities should co-operate and co-ordinate.

Meanwhile, Liu has also put forward the idea of building the Bohai Sea economic rim, which includes the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Shandong and Liaoning provinces. He said if the regions around Beijing have a sound economic base, labourers will move out of the city. Liu also cited the successful experiences of the regions in the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas.

People from other places contribute a lot to the city's population expansion. And most of them are migrant workers toiling in the city's urban construction. The government should pay attention to the management of this group. Migrant workers should be allowed to have a say in the management of themselves guided by the municipal government.

At the same time, the city's public services should be opened to them and migrant people should be allowed to have the job opportunities to work in grass-roots governmental organs.

Many local residents show their concerns that Beijing is plagued with overpopulation and are afraid that migrant workers will take urban resources from them.

But there is a surplus of housing, educational and working opportunities in the city. What the city lacks is a scientific way to allocate resources in line with market rules.

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