Youth Unemployment In China

Ross Paterson
Director, Derek Prince Ministries China
Ross Paterson
Director, Derek Prince Ministries China
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China, the world’s second-largest economy, has a major youth unemployment problem. The rate (for those aged 16 to 24) hit a record-high 21.3 percent in June, after which the government announced it would no longer publish the statistics. The seriousness of this youth problem is revealed by the fact that the country’s overall unemployment rate — 5.3% in July — is roughly the same as it was in 2019. But the youth unemployment rate has risen from roughly 12% in 2019 and 15.4% in 2021.

Some experts also say that the trend will not only exist during 2023. A Beijing University professor commented, "China is at the most difficult time for youth employment since the ‘reform and opening up’ in 1978. The relatively high youth unemployment is not a short-term problem but more likely will be a persisting issue for two to three years to come.”

Our approach must be that of prayer and sympathy for the situation. “Behind this number are the dashed dreams, increasing anxieties, readjustments of expectations and altered life paths of potentially millions of young Chinese.” These young people are the future of China. China’s problem is by no means unique. The equivalent level in Spain is even higher, at 28.9%.

China is at the most difficult time for youth employment since the ‘reform and opening up’ in 1978.

Why Such High Unemployment?

There are various reasons for this trend in China. There is the faltering recovery from the Covid period. “A period of economic volatility induced by the “zero Covid” measures has left companies wary of hiring, has interrupted education for many students, and made it hard to get the internships that often led to job offers.”

There is a skills mismatch. The wants and needs of young people and the companies that hire them are not in sync. Strangely, while the government acknowledged that there was a great labour shortage in low-wage service jobs like housekeeping and blue-collar manufacturing jobs, these are the type of jobs that college graduates often shun. They want jobs in the service sector or in the tech sector or as civil servants. In the 2023 application period, nearly 2.6 million young people took the civil service exam, competing for around 37,000 government jobs at the national and provincial levels.

The growth in higher education. For decades now, the Chinese government has encouraged university enrollment, pushing the number of students in higher education from 22 million in 1990 to 383 million in 2021. Master’s-degree candidates rose by 25 percent in 2021. But there are not enough jobs for these graduates. There are 11.6 million graduates in 2023 an increase of more than 40% from five years ago. One employment consultant said that in recruiting he did not even consider undergraduates, because there are so many post-graduates available in the job market. A master's degree might be needed for an office job.

Government policies such as the closing of the private sector schools and the regulations on the tech sector, such as Alibaba, also have led to redundancies and a lack of new opportunities. The collapse of some of the real estate sector also has had the same effect.

Then there are the students themselves with the tangping (lie flat) movement. More recently, there is a trend for some young people to choose to continue their duties as “professional” children — doing grocery shopping, housekeeping and other chores for the family in exchange for money or housing from their parents.

Prayer Is Needed

  • Pray for wisdom for the Chinese government in its economic policies to lessen youth unemployment.
  • Pray for unemployed students that the time of joblessness would cause many to consider the Lord Jesus as their guide and foundation in life.
  • Pray for the church to see ministries raised up specifically to help in this situation.
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