One of China's largest steelmakers plans to shed up to 50,000 jobs, its chairman said, as the country struggles to reduce overcapacity while growth in the world's second-largest economy slows. The comments made by Ma Guoqiang, the head of the state-owned Wuhan Iron and Steel, are a stark illustration of the challenges facing Beijing as it seeks to retool the economy while avoiding social unrest - anathema to the leadership. The firm's steel division currently has 80,000 employees but might retain only 30,000 of them, Ma said on the sidelines of the National People's Congress, the country's rubber-stamp parliament.
"Probably 40,000 to 50,000 people will have to find other ways forward," he told people.com.cn, a news portal run by the Communist Party's mouthpiece the People's Daily, according to a transcript on the website. China's economy grew at its slowest pace in a quarter of a century last year and its outlook remains bleak, with the government lowering its 2016 growth target last week to between 6.5 percent and 7 percent, down from the "nearly seven percent" previous target.
Authorities have prioritized the reduction of borrowing, overcapacity and inventory as they seek to maintain growth and make it more sustainable. The government has announced a goal to cut steel capacity by up to 150 million tons within the next five years. Global steel prices have plunged in the face of a worldwide glut and both the United States and European Union, whose own steel industries are deeply troubled, accuse China of selling underpriced steel in their markets.