China to stop publishing youth unemployment figures

China’s National Bureau of Statistics has announced it will temporarily halt publishing youth employment data from this month onwards.

The Bureau’s spokesperson, Fu Linghui, made the announcement at a press conference on August 15. During an overall positive update on the country’s economic recovery, Fu said in-depth research is currently needed to “improve and optimise” labour force statistics owing to rapid developments in education.

He noted that the number of urban youth in education has increased significantly, which has sparked concern in the Bureau over whether students who are seeking employment but are yet to graduate should still be included in the labour force data.

The announcement follows months of record-high unemployment among the country’s 16-24 year-olds, which reached 21.3% according to the most recent official figures published in July. This figure is the country’s highest since it started publishing youth employment data in 2018 and was initially expected to continue to climb as more fresh graduates enter the market over the summer. The news also comes amid widespread reports of China’s slide into deflation, which the Bureau asserted is not taking place during the same conference.

Heated discussions about the move to suspend publishing the figures kicked off on China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, where the associated hashtag garnered 200 million views in the hours following the conference. Netizens’ responses were mostly sarcastic, with many joking that the bureau had simply given up in the face of relentlessly pessimistic data.

Commentators both on Chinese social media and outside the Great Firewall have accused the bureau of not adhering to “seek truth from facts”, an idiom promoted by Deng Xiaoping as a tenet of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and therefore tightly associated with Reform and Opening. The implication of this criticism is that the government hopes to reach its objectives on paper by ignoring the reality experienced by the country’s people, a reminder of Mao-era politics for some.


Join our newsletter