Through four decades of reform and opening-up, China has made significant economic progress. With China becoming the second largest economy in the world, some foreign friends started to wonder: is China still a developing country? To identify the development stage of a country, one needs to take a comprehensive and multi-dimensional view. China does have a huge economic aggregate, but its per capita GDP stands just above US$8,800, only a quarter of that of the EU. More than 40 percent of Chinese live in the rural areas. Among them, over 30 million, equivalent to the population of a medium-sized country, are living in poverty with a per capita annual income of less than 3,000 RMB yuan. A large number of villages and some remote areas are still struggling with primitive infrastructure. Some of them have only just had access to roads, electricity and the internet. China ranks 86th on the UN list of Human Development Index, 76 places behind the Netherlands. All these speak to the fact that China remains a developing country, and there is still a long way to go before China becomes a high-income country and achieves all-round modernization.
On the other hand, the significant gap between China and developed countries can be turned into huge potential for development. The Chinese economy grew by 6.8% in the first half of this year. Growth in the third quarter is projected to moderate somewhat due to factors such as changes in the external environment. Yet we expect the steady momentum of growth to continue and overall economic performance to be maintained within the proper range. Employment, in particular, has remained solid, with over 11 million new urban jobs created in the first three quarters of this year. This has helped to keep surveyed urban unemployment rate at a relatively low level of around 5%. Structural adjustments have continued to make headway: consumption has kept growing by over 9%; the services sector accounts for a growing share of the economy, consolidating its role as the main engine for growth. High-tech sectors, strategic emerging industries and equipment manufacturing expanded notably faster than general industries. Agricultural production remains strong, with main agricultural products in abundant supply.
What's more, new growth drivers such as new forms and models of business have been thriving. The number of newly registered enterprises reached five million in the first three quarters of this year, or 18,000 for an average day, bringing the total number of market entities in China to over 100 million. These new growth drivers now contribute over one third to economic growth and more than two thirds to urban job creation. The quality and performance of the Chinese economy has been improving: profits of large industrial companies and service providers maintained double-digit growth, and household income rose largely in tandem with GDP growth.
This being said, we are deeply conscious of the many uncertainties and destabilizing factors confronting the Chinese economy in the context of a complex and fast-changing international environment. Downward pressure on the economy has notably increased, so have the difficulties and challenges facing us. Nevertheless, the Chinese economy enjoys strong resilience and broad space for maneuver, and thanks to years of development and innovation, we have at our disposal a fairly substantial toolkit for macro-control. All these will fully equip us to meet the main targets of development for this year and, through continued unrelenting efforts, to sustain medium-high growth for a long time to come and move to a medium-high level of development.
China will stay committed to advancing reform. Reform is the fundamental driver of China's development. China will only speed up its market-oriented reforms. We will not slow down the pace of reform, let alone turn back. The Chinese government will continue to streamline administrative approval procedures, provide more efficient services, and slash the time required to start a business, get a permit or go through customs clearance. We will introduce tax cuts on a bigger scale and meaningfully lower fees, including the social security contribution rate. The reform to transform state-owned enterprises (SOEs) into standard companies and joint-stock companies has been basically completed. China's SOEs, many of which are publicly listed, run their operations in an open and transparent manner. It is entirely up to them to make their own business decisions, and they are responsible for any profits or losses. They do not enjoy any special subsidies.
Continued efforts will be made to deepen the reform of SOEs and state-owned assets, including mixed-ownership reform in a tiered and category-based manner. Foreign investors are welcome to participate in the reforming and restructuring of Chinese SOEs. We will work for greater transparency in government regulations, ordinances and standards at all levels and higher consistency and predictability in policy execution. A level-playing field will be resolutely enforced. All companies registered in China will receive fair and equal treatment.
China will stay committed to greater opening-up. China has comprehensively fulfilled, in some cases outperformed, the commitments it made upon accession to the WTO. A foreign investment management model of pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list has been rolled out. China's trade in goods now accounts for more than one third of its GDP. And foreign-invested enterprises have contributed about 40% to China's export and 20% to tax revenue. China's economy has deeply integrated into the world economy. Pursuing greater opening-up is a sure choice based on its own development needs. Since early this year, we have introduced an array of new measures in pursuit of greater opening-up, including lowering tariffs for some goods and widening market access in the manufacturing and services industries.
Starting from next month, we will cut import tariffs for more than 1,500 industrial goods, which will bring our overall tariff rate down to 7.5%, a lower-middle level by international standards. China will further open its financial services sector. Just as we have lifted foreign ownership caps in the banking sector, we will take similar steps in the insurance and securities sectors in the next three years. By then there will be foreign ventures qualified for full-license, full-ownership operation in the financial sector. China's pursuit of opening-up in greater breadth and depth will provide more cooperation opportunities to the business communities around the world. In the first eight months of this year, total paid-in foreign direct investment in China grew by over 6%. A new round of investment by some multinationals is in the pipelines. Companies from the Netherlands and other European countries are welcome to get a head start in seizing business opportunities in China.
China will stay committed to boosting innovation. Much can be accomplished in China given its huge market, strong supporting industries and abundant human resources. We will foster a more enabling eco-system to spur innovation, intensify support for basic research and applied basic research, encourage corporate R&D spending, and improve incentives for researchers and policies for the commercialization of innovation outcomes. We will facilitate integrated innovation and synergized development of companies of different sizes, industries, universities, research institutes and end users in both online and offline activities.
Stringent IPR protection meets China's needs for high-quality development and closer cooperation with the rest of the world. In recent years, China has revised nearly 20 IPR-related laws and regulations, handled over 1.4 million cases of IPR infringement, and set up special IPR tribunals. Intellectual property royalty payments by Chinese companies to overseas proprietors have increased by a big margin to reach US$28.6 billion last year, of which one third was made to the EU. China will never allow forced technology transfer or make technology transfer a precondition for foreign investment approval. Mutually beneficial technology transfer and cooperation between business partners in joint ventures and other forms of cooperation will be respected by the government. We will introduce a more rigorous mechanism of punitive compensation for IPR infringements to deter violations, improve judicial services and align China's innovation protection system with international business rules.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is a proverb in the Netherlands that says, "A ship is as strong as its crew." If we compare China-Netherlands cooperation to a giant ship, business leaders present today would be sailors whose work is vital to the voyage ahead. I trust that all of you "sailors" will brave the waves hand-in-hand and forge ahead to set new records and score greater success in our cooperation.