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Graduates Debate County vs. City Jobs as China’s Youth Unemployment Crisis Deepens

A recent survey by an education consultancy in China has sparked heated discussions among Chinese netizens. It claims that, in recent years, an increasing number of university graduates are choosing to work in small counties instead of in big cities, and that the job satisfaction of such graduates has risen. Two young Chinese people interviewed by Voice of America disagreed with the survey results, saying that jobs in smaller counties actually offer lower salaries and fewer career development opportunities, contrary to the survey’s findings.

Wei, a 21-year-old tourism management student, is anxious about his future job prospects (like many of his graduating peers). He feels torn between working in a big city, which would mean intense competition and high living costs, or working in a small county, which would offer fewer opportunities for career growth and have lower-skilled job opportunities, unmatched to his degree.

The survey suggested that, in small counties, employment for bachelor’s degree graduates rose from 20% in 2018 to 25% in 2022, with job satisfaction improving by 9%. The survey reported that 70% of graduates employed in county jobs were working in roles relevant to their degrees. Wei stated that there is a huge gap between the survey results and the reality in China – small counties offer few private sector jobs, have lower pay, have policy implementation issues, and offer only unstable temporary work unless one is in the government sector.

While the survey data show that, in small counties, the monthly income of people with bachelor’s degrees has risen from 4,640 yuan (US$ 640) in 2018 to 5,377 yuan (US$ 742) in 2022, Wei believes that the official numbers are “false rhetoric disconnected from the reality of a decade’s wage stagnation,” and that many graduates end up returning home unemployed.

Some experts suggest that youth are leaving big cities due to lack of opportunities amid China’s current economic downturn and industrial restructuring, and that small counties are seen as providing better work-life balance despite lower salaries.

Source: Voice of America, April 21, 2024