Record high youth unemployment in China deepens economic scars

China's record-high unemployment puts college graduates in a difficult situation, leading to low-paying or underqualified job positions


According to a recent report, the youth unemployment rate in China rose to 20.4 per cent in April, highlighting the challenges faced by young individuals in finding jobs. 

This data raises concerns about job prospects and economic stability for the younger generation. It emphasises the need for targeted measures and policies to address youth unemployment and promote a favourable environment for employment.

The release of these statistics comes ahead of the graduation of approximately 11.6 million students who will soon enter the job market. The report notes that China’s strict lockdown measures, implemented as part of the government’s zero-COVID policy, have had a more severe economic impact compared to containment policies in other countries.

China’s economic recovery has been slower compared to some other nations. In the United States, the youth employment rate peaked at 14.85 per cent during the pandemic in 2020 and currently stands at 6.5 per cent. Although pandemic-related employment challenges have eased in China, reducing youth unemployment remains a difficult task.

Research shows that youth unemployment has long-term consequences, such as limiting skill development and negatively affecting lifetime earnings.

One of the main reasons contributing to the high youth unemployment rate in China is the significant gap between salary expectations and what companies are willing to pay.

A survey conducted in 2021 revealed that new graduates in cities like Shanghai and Beijing earn an average monthly salary of only USD 749, which is barely sufficient to cover basic expenses.

Furthermore, young professionals in urban areas often face demanding work schedules, working from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week. Families in these cities often rely heavily on nannies for child care. Surprisingly, nannies with minimal education earn higher average salaries in Shanghai and Beijing than recent college graduates.

The reluctance of fresh graduates to move to smaller cities with lower living costs can be attributed to the significant disparity in amenities between large and small cities. Some areas of major Chinese cities appear more prosperous than even cities like New York or Tokyo. This explains why many graduates choose to stay in expensive urban areas, relying on financial support from their parents instead.

Addressing youth unemployment in China requires not only an increase in job opportunities but also the creation of high-paying positions. The country’s economy urgently needs highly productive workers to support its growing elderly population.

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