In Fushun, a city of 2.3 million, the government workforce has fallen by 380,000 since 2000. Coal mines, construction companies and machinery factories have been pushed into the private sector, where they have shed employees or closed down.
Song Xiuling, who sells raw fish and vegetables in an unheated warehouse market, lost her job with a Fushun coal-mine housing firm in 1995. She led a group of 50 former coal miners and construction workers to Beijing last year to demand severance payments and unpaid pensions but got no response.
"Everyone here in this market was laid off," she said one recent night when the temperature was well below freezing. "Look at these hands," she said, holding up her red and swollen fingers. "They're frozen from doing this. But it's all the work there is."