Job creation is China's most important policy goal: Finance Minister

China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei gestures as he speaks during a news conference as a part of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing March 6, 2014. It is all right for China to slightly miss the government's 7.5 percent economic growth targ
China's Finance Minister Lou Jiwei gestures as he speaks during a news conference as a part of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing March 6, 2014. It is all right for China to slightly miss the government's 7.5 percent economic growth target this year as long as enough jobs are created, the finance minister said on Thursday, stressing that a healthy labour market is more important. Lou told a briefing at China's annual parliament meeting that the government has three broad economic policy goals each year: create jobs, control inflation and boost the economy. He said jobs are the most important of the three. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Job creation is China's most important policy target, while Beijing has become more flexible in its approach to achieving GDP growth rates, said its finance minister.

"If we were to say the economy grew this year not at 7.5 per cent, but at 7.3 per cent, 7.2 per cent, would it still count as 'around 7.5 per cent'? Yes it can," Mr Lou told a press conference on Thursday.

On the other hand, employment targets must be met - and even exceeded.

"Our employment goal is 11 million, can we achieve 13 million? This is highly possible," he said, adding that small enterprises and the services sector were key contributors to job creation last year.

Mr Lou was speaking on the sidelines of annual meetings of the China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), which opened on Wednesday.

The services industry, which comprised 46 per cent of GDP growth last year, surpassed the manfacturing sector for the first time and provided a lot of jobs, Mr Lou said.

Mr Lou's comments came after Premier Li Keqiang told NPC delegates in his annual work report that the government's priority was on reform rather than maintaining fast growth.

Mr Li has also stressed on earlier occasions that a stable employment situation is a key consideration for policymakers when steering the economy towards slower but more sustainable growth.

graceng@sph.com.sg

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