China needs to en­sure that risks pre­sented by a slow­ing econ­omy do not morph into so­cial risks, the state plan­ner said on Fri­day, ac­knowl­edg­ing the prob­lems the coun­try faces should un­em­ploy­ment rise.

Keep­ing un­em­ploy­ment low is a top pol­icy pri­or­ity for China's sta­bil­i­ty­ob­sessed gov­ern­ment, a task that it has ad­mit­ted will be­come more dif­fi­cult as growth grinds to­wards a 25-year low this year. The gov­ern­ment should "fur­ther im­prove the so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tem... to en­sure eco­nomic risks do not morph into so­cial risks", the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion said in an online state­ment with­out men­tion­ing un­em­ploy­ment.

"When is­su­ing ma­jor poli­cies and re­form mea­sures, [ the gov­ern­ment] should in­sist on car­ry­ing out so­cial sta­bil­ity assess­ments," it said.

China has no re­li­able of­fi­cial mea­sure of job­less­ness, which has hov­ered around 4 per cent in cities for 12 con­sec­u­tive years. But all of­fi­cial ac­counts sug­gest that the labour mar­ket has held up well and there is no anec­do­tal ev­i­dence of a rise in protests or un­rest.

That said, the Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and So­cial Se­cu­rity warned ear­lier this month that it sees "struc­tural" chal­lenges in the labour mar­ket in the sec­ond half of the year.

Some prov­inces, such as the north­east­ern rust belt, have been hit by job losses due to their re­liance on pol­lut­ing busi­nesses such as steel mak­ing and min­ing, which are be­ing scaled back. In­dus­tries such as steel and ce­ment pro­duc­tion have also shrunk due to sup­ply gluts. The trans­for­ma­tion of large sta­te­owned firms, re­source-rich re­gions and old in­dus­trial towns would be stepped up to help them move up the value chain, the com­mis­sion said.

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