China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced on July 17th that urban youth unemployment rose for the sixth consecutive month in June to reach 21.3% – the highest figure since records began in 2018.
At a State Council press conference on the progress of the economy in the first half of 2023, the National Bureau of Statistics spokesperson Fu Linghui was asked whether he expects the jobless rate to decline next month.
“It is likely to rise again due to the concentration of young graduates and young people entering the labour market,” Fu explained. “Typically, as graduation season passes young people gradually find jobs. Based on the historical data, we expect a gradual decline after August.”
The official party line this year has been to underscore the cyclical nature of monthly youth unemployment rates. Youth unemployment does tend to surge during graduation season, with last year’s youth unemployment peaking in July at 19.9%. However, the metric has seen a consistent year-on-year increase since records began, and after peaking in the summer youth unemployment does not typically plummet to previous lows, pointing to the potential long-term nature of the problem.
As a record 11.58 million university graduates enter China’s job market this season, applications for rural employment schemes have skyrocketed. Provinces across China use these schemes to help close the income gap between urban and rural China by injecting young talent into underdeveloped regions. The country’s most populous province, Guangdong, hopes to send 300,000 university graduates to rural areas to become cadres or entrepreneurs by the end of 2025.
Young people’s plight has been downplayed by the authorities, with state media lambasting them as “unwilling to engage in jobs that are lower than their expectations”. A recent opinion piece in the Communist Party mouthpiece, The People’s Daily, called for graduates to “establish a correct outlook on unemployment”. The piece was ridiculed on China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, drawing a total of 11 million views. The almost 2000 comments under the topic’s most popular post can no longer be viewed, indicating the post has been censored.