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Unemployment Woes: Think Tank Examines Rising Youth Joblessness in China


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Young jobless graduates in China are facing significant challenges as the country emerges from three years of Covid-19 restrictions. Despite being the most highly educated cohort in the country’s history, recent data shows that 20.8% of 16 to 24-year-olds were unemployed in May, the highest proportion since 2018. While the Chinese economy continues to generate millions of jobs, many of these positions are low-end and unappealing to university graduates. The government’s crackdown on sectors such as technology, finance, and gaming has further limited employment opportunities.

This article explores the impact of these factors on Chinese graduates’ career prospects and the potential consequences for the country’s economic and political stability.


Oversupply of Graduates and Structural Issues:

The China Institute for Employment Research has indicated an oversupply of labor for six consecutive quarters, with a record 11.6 million university graduates entering the job market in June and July. This situation, coupled with a weak economy and low confidence, has contributed to the rising youth unemployment rate. Economists warn that the problem may persist for a decade, potentially leading to social and political issues if not addressed effectively.


Government Messaging and Perception of Degrees:

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged young graduates to “ask for hardship” and recently launched a campaign emphasizing the importance of finding a job first and then choosing a career. However, many graduates feel that despite the high cost of their degrees, the value of qualifications from all but the best universities is limited in the job market. This perception adds to the frustration of graduates who struggle to secure decent jobs and face financial challenges, including the inability to buy homes or start families.


Impact of Covid-19 and Crackdowns:

Covid-19 restrictions have played a role in limiting job opportunities, particularly in the services sector. Additionally, the government’s crackdown on high-growth sectors that were once attractive sources of employment, such as technology, finance, and gaming, has further exacerbated the situation. Private sector confidence remains low, and investment in these areas has declined, affecting employment prospects for young graduates.


Structural and Economic Factors:

Analysts argue that underlying causes contribute to the job crisis, including Beijing’s investment model that prioritizes manufacturing and infrastructure over domestic consumption. The focus on low wages in manufacturing competitiveness becomes problematic when weak domestic demand arises. The Chinese growth model proves to be less labor-intensive, impacting employment prospects for graduates.


Seeking Stability Amid Challenges:

Young graduates are resorting to various strategies to improve their prospects, including attempting the national civil service examination, which drew a record number of applicants this year. Many graduates face fierce competition, highlighting the difficulty of securing stable employment. Despite the challenges, some individuals have found work, albeit with lower salaries or in less desirable locations.



The job crisis facing Chinese graduates reflects the complex economic challenges and structural issues within the country’s employment landscape. A weak recovery from Covid-19, limited opportunities in high-growth sectors, and an oversupply of graduates contribute to the current state of affairs.

Addressing these issues is crucial for China’s long-term economic stability and social harmony. Efforts to bridge the skills gap, promote domestic consumption, and foster an inclusive job market could help alleviate the challenges faced by young graduates and ensure a more prosperous future for the country’s workforce.

Zain Saleem
Zain Saleem
Zain Saleem is an Islamabad-based Senior Journalist

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