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The Labor Situation in China

China’s estimated employed labor force in 2005 totaled 791.4 million persons.

During 2003, 49 percent of the labor force worked in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 22 percent in mining, manufacturing, energy, and construction industries; and 29 percent in the services sector and other categories. In 2004 some 25 million persons were employed by 743,000 private enterprises. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the state-sanctioned labor organization with which other official labor organizations affiliate.

The ACFTU was established in 1925 to represent the interests of national and local trade unions and trade union councils. The ACFTU reported a membership of 130 million, out of an estimated 248 million urban workers, at the end of 2002. An independent trade union group, the Workers’ Autonomous Federation, was founded in 1989 but fell short of its goal of establishing a separate trade union movement when many of its leaders were arrested during the June 1989 Tiananmen incident.

Official Chinese statistics reveal that 4.2 percent of the total urban workforce was unemployed in 2004, although the true figure was believed by outside observers to be 10 percent. As part of its newly developing social security legislation, China has an unemployment insurance system. At the end of 2003, more than 103.7 million people were participating in the plan, and 7.4 million laid-off employees had received benefits.

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