China needs 7.2% GDP growth for employment: Premier Li

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China needs to sustain economic growth of 7.2 percent to ensure a stable job market, Premier Li Keqiang said in remarks published on Tuesday, one of the few times a top official has stated the minimum level of growth needed for employment.

Official calculation showed the world's second-largest economy needs to grow at a rate of 7.2 percent annually to ensure 10 million jobs are being created each year, Li was quoted by the Workers' Daily as saying. This would cap the urban unemployment rate at around 4 percent, he said.

"We want to stabilise economic growth because we need to guarantee employment essentially," Li said at a national workers' meeting two weeks ago.

His remarks were published in full for the first time on Tuesday.

The government has said the slowdown has been partly engineered to make room for retooling the economy to ensure future growth is cleaner, more sustainable, less dependent on heavy investment and more reliant on consumption.

China's economy is set to grow at its slackest pace in 23 years this year, at 7.5 percent, as its export sales falter on fragile global demand.

Li reiterated that the 7.5 percent growth target for 2013 remains intact, but noted that weak exports sales were a risk.

"If the exports drop sharply, it would bring employment problem," Li said.

Exports can directly create about 30 million jobs and add another 100 million jobs in other related industries, Li said, adding that every one percentage point in economic growth can create 1.3 million or even 1.5 million jobs.

Li's comments came as China's leaders prepare to meet from Nov. 9 to Nov 12 at key plenum that will discuss deepening reforms.

Known as the third plenum, it marks the third time that China's 200-member Central Committee has gathered since last year's leadership change. Such meetings have historically been a springboard for change.

No details have been given on what changes will be pursued and in what manner, although Yu Zhengsheng, the fourth-ranked member of China's elite Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, has said the plenum will unveil "unprecedented"reforms.

People familiar with discussions said last month, however, that of a long list of proposed changes, only financial reforms had garnered enough support to warrant a roadmap.

More controversial changes such as those tied to the fiscal system and land and residency registration have been major sticking points. Political reform is also not expected to be discussed much at the meeting.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.