About 20 million migrant workers in China have lost their jobs or are unable to find work due to the economic downturn, a top official said Monday.
"Because of the economic downturn, about 20 million rural migrant workers have either lost their jobs or have not yet found employment and have gone home to the countryside," said Chen Xiwen, a senior rural planning official.
"Indeed, quite a large share of the rural migrant workers have lost their jobs," he told a briefing in Beijing.
The figure marks a huge increase from previous numbers released by the government.
The National Bureau of Statistics last month indicated that the number of migrant workers who lost their jobs due to the crisis was about six million.
The plight of the migrant workers is monitored carefully by the government, who are worried about the potential for social unrest.
Approximately 130 million rural dwellers in China have left their homes to seek work in the cities, finding employment in the labour-intensive industries that have supplied the world with cheap consumer goods in recent years.
As the global crisis has plunged a number of China's traditional export markets in Europe and North America into recession, large numbers of workers have lost their jobs as their employers have closed or halted production.
Chen said the 20 million figure was based on a recent agriculture ministry survey carried out in 150 villages in 15 different provinces.