China's Youth Unemployment Crisis: 1 in 5 Out of Work

Shu Xiang, 21, started looking for work in February and is still having no luck. Majoring in financial management at a college in Chengdu, China, Ms. Shu said he had received five responses out of about 100 applications. Graduation is a few weeks away.

“I'm not so confident about finding a job,” he said. The only thing that made him less anxious, he said, was knowing he wasn't alone—most of his classmates were facing the same problem.

Ms. Shu is one of nearly 12 million Chinese expected to enter the job pool next month at a tough time. The government reported this week that 20.4 percent of people aged 16 to 24 looking for work lost their jobs in April. That is the highest level since China began announcing statistics in 2018.

High youth unemployment has been a black mark on China's economy for several years, exacerbated by strict pandemic health restrictions curtailing travel, crushing small businesses and undermining consumer confidence. The government, facing rare public discontent as young professionals in major cities across China protested the “zero Covid” rules, suddenly announced in December that it would begin easing the policy. But the youth unemployment rate remains high, even though the overall rate has fallen for the second month in a row.

The Chinese government has introduced set of policies intended to stimulate youth employment, including subsidies for small and medium enterprises that employ college graduates. State Owned Enterprises have directed to make more jobs available to those just starting out.

Overall, China's economy is establishing itself more slowly and unevenly than many people believe. Another report released by Beijing this week showed an increase in retail sales and factory activity in April, but the figures caused jitters among economists and investors, who expected better results because of the data compared to April 2022, when millions were effectively closed. . inside during lockdown in Shanghai. China's big tech companies, coming off a rocky year, are starting to show signs of recovery, but most of their financial performance has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

One problem, analysts say, is the mismatch between the jobs college graduates want and the jobs available.

In March, job listings in tourism and passenger and cargo transportation grew the fastest, according to Zhilian, a Chinese job search site. Another sector with lots of available jobs is retail.

Industries such as construction, transportation and warehousing, which usually attract a lot of interest from China's large population of migrant workers, have also picked up, Fu Linghuia spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a news conference this week.

Nie Riming, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law, a research organisation, said young people with higher education degrees were looking for jobs in technology, education and medicine.

“But this industry is a slow-growing industry in China in recent years,” said Nie. “Many industries have not only not grown, but have taken a crushing blow.”

China has cracked down on its booming education and technology industries in recent years. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. and companies and investors were left reeling. Tightened oversight has raised concerns about further government intervention in the private sector, which in turn has led companies to reduce hiring.

While the industries that attract educated youth are shrinking, the number of college graduates is growing.

According to China's Ministry of Education, 11.6 million students are expected to graduate in June, an increase of 820,000 from last year.

Another way the Covid pandemic is still haunting young job seekers is the large number of students who spend part of their college years in lockdown, living on campuses where their movements are severely restricted. They have fewer opportunities for internships or to gain the social experience recruiters are looking for.


While China's economy is expected to strengthen in the coming months, the recovery will remain weak until consumers feel confident enough again to make big purchases – which will in turn encourage more companies to engage in more hiring.

Dong Yan, who works for a Beijing organization that holds regular job fairs, said that the number of companies inquiring about the booth was still less than before the pandemic.

“The economy is said to be recovering,” said Ms. Dong. “But I have a feeling this is going downhill, as a lot of people are now out of work or being laid off by their companies.”