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Chinese Scholar: Possible Underestimate of Youth Unemployment Rate

According to Zhang Dandan, a professor from Beijing University, the youth unemployment rate in China may be underestimated due to discouraged workers temporarily leaving the labor force during weak job markets,

According to an article published by Zhang in China Digital Times, structural and short-term factors both contribute to high youth unemployment. In the long run, three years of COVID-19 restrictions significantly impacted consumption, business, and economic vitality. In the short run, the 16.6% year-on-year increase in college graduates in 2022 and the 12% increase in graduate students flooded the job market. Rapid AI development has also begun replacing human roles in some white-collar professions like finance and sales, disproportionately impacting highly-educated youth. While vocational youth employment has rebounded slightly since March, unemployment remains high for 4-year college graduates. The number of civil service exam takers surged 80% during the period 2022-2023, reflecting graduates’ job insecurity. With 11.58 million total 2023 graduates, competition is fierce.

According to China’s Bureau of Statistics, urban youth in the 16-to-24-year old age range comprise 96 million individuals, of whom 64 million do not have jobs. Among this group of non-laboring urban youth, 16 million are non-students, many of whom choose to “lie flat” by relying on their parents rather than working. If these individuals were counted as unemployed, the youth unemployment rate could be as high as 46.5% rather than the reported 19.7%.

College graduates are increasingly choosing to not work immediately after graduation, comprising about 75% of the youth who choose to “lie flat. This situation may be helped as college graduates reduce their salary expectations and gradually enter the workforce. However, economic recovery is needed to fundamentally address the root cause of youth unemployment.

Source: China Digital Times, July 19, 2023