By Ouyang Xiaohong
Published: 2008-03-26

From News, page 5, issue no. 360, Mar 24, 2008
Translated by Zuo Maohong
Original article: [Chinese]

One minister and ten deputy ministers will be taking helm of the newly-minted Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS).

The decision was made on March 19 after a day-long meeting of top officials, China's State Council website said. 

The new ministry is a combination of the former Ministry of Personnel (MOP) and Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS), and was part of the State Council reshuffle scheme approved by the National People's Congress (NPC).

The MHRSS, with the former Minister of Personnel Yin Weimin as its chief, was one of the new five "super ministries" under a reshuffle meant to streamline government administration.

Though the top posts have been filled, the structural changes downstream are on-going, and more announcements related to staffing, job-function,and subsidiary departments are anticipated.

At the top officials meeting to name leaders for the MHRSS, the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Central Committee Department of Organization also announced the list of party members that would be assigned to it. Among the new deputies appointed included State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs director general Ji Yunshi, the former MLOSS first deputy minister Sun Baoshu, and deputy minister Yang Zhiming. 

One insider told the EO: "The meeting has worked out a framework for restructuring, but departmental adjustments and consolidation will take another week or so to clarify."

A former MOP general staff expressed worries for his career path, not knowing what he would be assigned in the future, while another external relations staff told the EO: "We don't know whether our positions will be changed yet. In the short term, at least you can still find us if you call the office."

An official of the former MOP seemed unperturbed, saying that the cutting down of departmental functions would be minimal; adding the scope of management would be enlarged instead.

As of press time, the sign of the new MHRSS has yet to be put up to replace the two former ministries. 

Challenges Facing the New Minister
The newly appointed 55-year-old minister Yin Weimin has a master degree in economics. Sources close to Yin said he had strong foundation in ground work and good professional skills, and he was meticulous and sharp.

Having first joined the CPC Central Committee Department of Organization in 1978, Yin has climbed the organization ladder from a general clerk to where he is today after 22 years. In the process, he had been appointed as Deputy Minister of Personnel in 2000 and seven years later promoted to the Ministry's top post.

Yin would have to deal with a series of complex tasks of consolidation of the two former ministries, including the integration of job functions, the development of a standardized human resources market and policies on employment and social security, and the establishment of an integrated social safety net.

At the National Personnel Directors' Conference on December 15 last year, Yin said the main task of the MOP in 2008 was to improve the civil service system and the income allocation of personnel in government bodies and public entities.

He also noted efforts should be made to develop a more market-oriented mechanism for personnel allocation, better human resources services, and attract more international talents.

In fact, this latest merger is not the first. In 1982, the State Administration of Labor, the State Administration of Personnel, the Administration of Technical Cadres under the State Council, and the National Personnel Commission were incorporated into the Ministry of Labor and Personnel.

Unlike the previous merger, however, the new ministry replaced "labor" with "human resources and social security" as its name, which demonstrated the government's determination to improve the human resources market and a corresponding social security system.

Expansion or Contraction?
"There will definitely be some changes in personnel appointments, but the services offered won't be affected, and main departments won't change," an official of the MOLSS told the EO.

While another source in the ministry said judging from the ground situation and functions of the two ministries, the MOLSS might be the main entity to be restructured.

"Though the word 'labor' has been eliminated, the names of main departments won't be changed. There might be one or two new departments. For example, MOLSS departments that used to be in charged of workers and MOP departments that assigned titles of technical posts in public entities might be renamed and merged into the 'employment management' section," said the above source.

"Anything related to employment, no matter in public or private entities, is classified into human resources, while matters related to security, whether inside or outside of a person's work unit, belong to social security," he added.

An insider said the old departments and personnel would remain as long as they were still relevant and useful. "We don't know yet what to do with those who are no longer relevant," he said.

A professor of Renmin University of China believed that the market-oriented reform had limited the MOP's services to only low-level public servants, personnel in public entities, and army professionals. 

On the contrary, as a result of economic growth and construction of a harmonious society, the government started to prioritize social security, hence a broader management scope for the MOLSS, said the above professor.  

The above reasons led the professor to believe that the main focus of reshuffle would be placed on MOLSS, making it more efficient to meet its increased responsibilities. 

According to an insider, among the 11 departments under the MOLSS, the five related to social security matters were independent units and need not be merged; whereas 12 out of the 13 departments under the MOP could be incorporated into some departments under the former. The former civil service department of the MOP would be separated into the State Bureau of Public Servants, he added.

However, any restructuring scheme of the subsidiary departments would need the green light from the State Council, said the above source.

It was important to set up subsidiary departments and clarify their functions based on research findings on public needs and current socio-economy precondition, said Professor Zhu Lijia of National School of Administration. 

He added although the merger had been launched, the reform of departments might take at least half a year to a year to accomplish in view of complex bureaucratic procedures, especially in the assessment and approval stage.