Himalayan News Service

Beijing, July 7:

After a breakneck run in economic growth over the years, China is finally taking a hard look at the human cost of development. Fears of social discontent due to growing disparities in incomes, rising unemployment, environmental degradation and an overheating economy have all prompted Beijing to take a call on the growth path it wants to take. “The government’s development policy will be guided by sustainable development so that people will be the criterion for development,” says Zhou Xian, deputy director general at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) that formulates the economic development programme, “When we talk about economic growth it should mean real growth, growth for the people,” he told a group of visiting Indian journalists here.

There are worrying trends in the society after the Communist giant shelved its doctrinaire approach to development and went in for uninhibited economic reforms over two and a half decades ago. “Millionaires have become billionaires and the gap between the rich and the poor are growing,” said Li U Jian, professor at the Institute of Asia Pacific Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a Beijing-based think tank, “All this coupled with the inevitable drop in morality levels are all worrying trends,” he added. Employment was guaranteed in the old China before sweeping economic reforms were introduced and changed the way the Chinese lived. These days even university graduates are not assured of jobs.

According to official estimates, some four million people join the job market every year, of which only 1.5 million find employment. When the economic reforms were launched, state-owned enterprises accounted for 95 per cent of the economy. Today, due to rapid privatisation of public sector units, state ownership of such enterprises account only for 30 per cent. That had led to a massive loss of jobs as the new owners downsized the companies to make them commercially viable. The exact number of workers who lost their jobs is not available, but officials said it could be in “thousands.” According to official statistics, since the economy was liberalised more than 200 million farmers had been absorbed in industries, many of them in village-based units. But that has not put an end to an increasing migration from the rural to urban areas. Annually, about 15 million farmers migrate to cities in search of employment. “There are many lessons to be learned. ,” said NDRC’s Zhou.