The Earnshaw Vault

The end of work for all in 1981

I salute you, now get a job

Graham Earnshaw was the Daily Telegraph correspondent in Beijing from 1980 to 1984, and he's been looking through his clippings, which seem to prove both that China has changed completely and also that China has stayed exactly the same. This spring and summer, Danwei will be publishing a series of these reports from the past. This is today's resurrected item:

China Drops 'Jobs For All' Policy

By Graham Earnshaw in Peking November 25, 1981

The Chinese government announced yesterday that it will no longer accept responsibility for providing full employment, supposedly one of the main advantages of the Socialist system.

In a major policy shift, the People's Daily said that the onus for finding jobs for China's millions would in future be shared by several different levels, including the workers.

Individuals will be encouraged to support themselves financially by various legal means, and controls on private businesses will be relaxed even further in an effort to soak up the huge pool of unemployed in China's cities.

The paper stressed the need to expand the self-employed sector of the economy. This means more street hawkers, piano-tuners, shoe-shine boys, rat-catchers, cobblers and other service trades - virtually all of which were abolished under the Cultural Revolution.

But many young people, brought up under Chairman Mao to condemn small traders as evil speculators or "bourgeois remnants", are not willing to take such jobs.

As an added incentive to workers to find work on their own, the new directive suggested that some self-employed people could become eligible to join the Communist Party - the road to real power in China. All workers in China have until now been "assigned" work by the State, with virtually no choice as to what that work may be. There are no unemployment benefits for those not lucky enough to be assigned jobs.

An article in the official party magazine Red Flag in June said that there were 10 million people "waiting to be assigned jobs." An official in Shanghai earlier this year said that she understood the number of unemployed to be over 20 million.

Author's note: The first step on the road from socialist nightmare towards whatever it is that China is becoming was taken in 1979 with four words "bao chan dao hu" (包产到户)—basically killing the communes by handing agricultural production to farmer households. This was the urban equivalent.

The image above shows Deng Xiaoping, architect of China's reforms, in 1981 (source).

There are currently 2 Comments for The end of work for all in 1981.

Comments on The end of work for all in 1981

why does it still take 3 persons to admit me to certain parts of the Beijing Subway: 1 person to sell the ticket; 1 person to collect and rip the ticket; and a 3rd person to watch the collecting and ripping of said ticket?

I"m confused. When was this policy abolished? I thought it's abolished awhile ago.

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