SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s Premier Li Keqiang pledged to create at least 10 million new jobs in 2015, the state run China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday, despite economic growth that slowed to its weakest pace in nearly a quarter of a century last year.
Beijing views healthy employment levels as a top policy priority and an important condition for social stability. Last year the country created around 13 million jobs.
“Stress tests show the possibility of a large amount of unemployment, which could lead to social instability if the economy cools down too fast,” Li said at a meeting with economic experts and business leaders on Monday, the newspaper said.
China’s economy grew at its slowest pace in 24 years in 2014 as property prices cooled and companies and local governments struggled under heavy debt burdens, pressuring Beijing to take aggressive steps to avoid a sharper downturn.
A weakening jobs market would raise alarm bells for the government as it ratchets up efforts, including an interest rate cut towards the end of last year, to support a slowing economy.
China targeted a registered urban unemployment rate below 4.6 percent last year, although many economists believe the real number may be higher given the difficulty of tracking the country’s army of migrant workers.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts China’s economy will grow 6.8 percent in 2015, while a median forecast in a Reuters poll sees an expansion of around 7 percent.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan and Lu Jianxin; Editing by Richard Pullin