China’s Unemployment Faces Multiple Challenges « Khabarhub
Sunday, July 14th, 2024

China’s Unemployment Faces Multiple Challenges



China’s youths today are confronting one of the most challenging employment landscapes since the inception of the ‘reform and opening up’ policy in 1978.

Young jobseekers in China are currently grappling with the most formidable employment market in decades, and analysts predict that they must brace themselves for even more challenging times ahead.

The persisting struggles are unlikely to dissipate in the near future.

According to the South China Morning Post, the unemployment rate among individuals aged 16-24 in China soared to a record high of 20.8 percent in May 2023.

This alarming statistic presents a significant obstacle to Beijing’s endeavors to revive the economy in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is projected that the youth unemployment rate in China will continue to escalate in July and August, exacerbated by a record-breaking 11.58 million university graduates preparing to enter the job market.

Regulatory changes in sectors such as information technology, education, and property may have further impacted the labor demand in those industries.

Another facet of China’s unemployment challenge lies in the discriminatory treatment faced by middle-aged jobseekers, who encounter age-based barriers when attempting to secure re-employment amidst mounting economic and unemployment pressures.

The middle-age group is confronted with the well-known obstacle known as the “glass ceiling” at the age of 35, which presents significant hurdles.

Experts predict that this year may prove to be even more arduous, as the coronavirus outbreak undeniably exacerbated the employment crisis for middle-aged workers in China, leaving many still grappling with daunting challenges.

Based on a survey conducted by Zhaopin, a prominent online recruitment service provider in China, a staggering 85 percent of workers believe that there is a pervasive age threshold of 35 in most workplaces.

This alarming perception highlights the prevalence of age discrimination.

Furthermore, over 60 percent of respondents expressed the urgent need for addressing this issue.

Concurrently, the jobless rate for the 16-24 age group reached a distressing record of 20.8 percent in May 2023, surpassing the previous high of 20.4 percent in April.

This dual challenge of high youth unemployment and discrimination against middle-aged workers significantly reflects the underlying socio-economic issues prevalent in China.

Addressing this multifaceted problem will likely require a considerable amount of time, with experts predicting that it may take at least two to three years for the youth unemployment rate to witness a substantial decline.

The high influx of college graduates into an already pressurized job market, compounded by a lackluster economic recovery, further exacerbates the employment pressure faced by the country.

With a working-age population of 430 million, nearly half of whom fall within the age group of 35-49, the issue of re-employment for this segment poses fresh challenges in China.

The employment crisis faced by middle-aged individuals has been exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to an increased number of older displaced workers seeking new job opportunities.

In fact, from February to September 2020, there was a 14.9 percent year-on-year rise in the number of jobseekers aged 35 and above submitting resumes on the Zhaopin recruitment platform, which was more than twice the growth rate of those under 35.

The private sector, which employs over 80 percent of the urban workforce and serves as a major source of employment, is still grappling with a sluggish recovery, making it challenging to re-employ those who have been laid off.

An article in the Global Times highlights the difficulties faced by middle-aged individuals in securing jobs after being let go.

In a trending online phenomenon, middle-aged unemployed people are often seen flocking to coffee shops to utilize the free Wi-Fi and air conditioning, without necessarily purchasing any coffee.

The large-scale unemployment in China is closely linked to the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.

Over the past three years, the pandemic-battered economy, coupled with a faltering recovery in 2023, has posed challenges to China’s efforts in creating sufficient jobs, which are deemed crucial for sustaining growth and social stability.

Although the unemployment rate for the 25 to 59 age group in China decreased to 4.1 percent in May 2023 from 4.2 percent in April 2023, the jobless rate for the 16-24 age group has steadily increased since 2020.

The lackluster economic recovery in 2023 has resulted in a lack of confidence in labor demand, particularly among small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Many businesses prefer to rely on employee overtime rather than swiftly creating new positions.

Moreover, the competition intensifies as individuals who were previously unemployed or held transitional jobs during the pandemic re-enter the job market.

The Chinese government’s concern about youth unemployment was recently highlighted in May 2023 when President Xi Jinping was quoted in a front-page article in the People’s Daily.

Mismatches between the skills acquired by graduates from higher education and those demanded by employers contribute to the abnormally high rate of joblessness, especially in certain industries.

According to Goldman Sachs, there has been a significant increase of over 20 percent in the number of graduates in education/sports disciplines in 2021 compared to 2018.

However, the hiring demand in educational institutions has weakened considerably during the same period.

Regulatory changes in sectors such as information technology, education, and property may have further impacted the labor demand in those industries.

China has experienced several unemployment crises in the past. The first occurred in the early 1980s when around five million educated youth, who had been sent to the countryside, returned home.

This led to reforms and the lifting of restrictions to allow self-employment. The second crisis took place between 1989-1990, during a period of slowed economic growth.

In 1998, China’s efforts to restructure inefficient and loss-making state firms resulted in millions of workers being laid off.

The third crisis primarily affected individuals in their 40s and 50s. However, the surplus labor generated was absorbed by the thriving private sector following China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001.

The fourth wave occurred when 15 to 20 million migrant workers left coastal factories due to a lack of work during the 2008 global financial crisis.

The challenges faced by the youth in China, including economic difficulties and high unemployment, make it apparent that achieving their aspirations is still a distant goal.

China swiftly implemented a 4 trillion-yuan (US$559 billion) stimulus package to support the job market and boost economic growth.

The Chinese government’s concern about youth unemployment was recently highlighted in May 2023 when President Xi Jinping was quoted in a front-page article in the People’s Daily.

He expressed the belief that “The countless instances of success in life demonstrate that in one’s youth, choosing to endure hardships can lead to eventual rewards.”

The article emphasized President Xi’s expectations of the young generation and repeatedly mentioned the concept of “eating bitterness” as a means of achieving success.

President Xi has consistently encouraged young people to embrace self-inflicted hardships, drawing from his own experience of working in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

However, the current economic downturn and the prevalence of severe unemployment have placed Chinese youth in a situation where they are already enduring hardships.

This reality underscores the significant gap that still exists in achieving the “Chinese dream.”

The challenges faced by the youth in China, including economic difficulties and high unemployment, make it apparent that achieving their aspirations is still a distant goal.

Publish Date : 04 July 2023 12:34 PM

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