Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned of a “complicated and grave” employment situation as the country imposes sweeping lockdowns to contain Covid outbreaks.
Li instructed all government departments and regions to prioritize measures aimed at helping businesses retain jobs and weather the current difficulties, according to a late Saturday statement, which cited the premier’s comments in a nationwide teleconference on employment.
“Stabilizing employment matters to people’s livelihoods, it is also a key support for the economy to operate within a reasonable range,” Li said, urging businesses to resume production with Covid-fighting measures in place.
China’s top leaders doubled down on the nation’s Covid-Zero strategy last week, warning against any attempts to question the lockdown-dependent approach even as economic activity contracted sharply in April amid factory closings and supply-chain disruptions.
The premier’s warning on employment came after the nation’s surveyed jobless rate climbed to 5.8% in March, the highest since May 2020, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics in mid-April.
China reported 4,384 new Covid-19 cases for May 7. Shanghai, which has been under some form of lockdown for weeks, recorded 3,975 new infections, down from 4,000-plus daily infections earlier. The financial hub announced Saturday it would postpone entrance examinations for colleges and high schools until July, while some of the city’s biggest manufacturers have said they are trying to restart plants.
Financial regulators in Shanghai called on local banks to boost credit support for residents with “flexible employment” such as online-shop owners and truck drivers, said Yu Wenjian, an official with the central bank’s Shanghai head office.
Financial institutions in the city have lent 72.3 billion yuan ($10.8 billion) to sectors including retail, catering and tourism and 33.5 billion yuan to materials suppliers and logistics companies since March when the latest outbreak started in the city, Yu said at a regular briefing on Sunday. He also urged banks to allow Shanghai home buyers to delay mortgage payments or adjust payment plans to help them weather the Covid impact.
Beijing logged 62 new cases as authorities in the capital scramble to contain a wider spread. Its eastern Chaoyang district, home to embassies and offices of multinationals including Apple Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., ordered shutting down some businesses providing non-essential services such as gyms and movie theaters to minimise infections.
Li reiterated at the meeting that China will also promote the healthy development of internet platform companies to support employment.
Chen Yulu, vice governor of the People’s Bank of China, said the central bank would put a greater focus on stabilizing growth and increase support for the real economy. In a Xinhua interview published Saturday, Chen also said authorities will help smaller banks increase their lending capability through the sale of perpetual bonds.