China’s youth unemployment rate is back, and better

China's youth unemployment rate is back, and better

After suspending public release of the youth unemployment rate last year, China began distributing the information again on Wednesday using a different measurement criteria, significantly reducing the figure.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics stopped announcing the unemployment rate among 16 to 24-year-olds after the figure rose for six consecutive months to 21.3 percent in June, a record high. When the government suspended the numbers for July, it said the collection of information needed to be “further improved and optimized.”

The rising number of unemployed youth has become an inconvenient data point that seems to refute Beijing’s claims that the country’s economy is recovering after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

The government agency said school students are no longer included in the unemployment figures. After adjusting its calculation methods, the bureau said the unemployment rate among 16 to 24-year-olds was 14.9 percent in December.

Kang Yi, director of the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a press conference that the method produced a “more accurate monitor of youth unemployment” because it separates youth looking for part-time jobs while still in school from those looking for full-time jobs. . Job after graduation. He said graduates need to find work, but the main task of students “is to study, not work part-time.”

He Yafu, an independent demographer who lives in the southern city of Zhanjiang in Guangdong province, said he believed the change in measurement had helped reduce the headline figure, although he thought many young people remained unemployed.

In another change, the Bureau of Statistics said it has created a new age group to measure unemployment. China said it would now track the unemployment rate among 25 to 29-year-olds, combined with the broader group of 25 to 59-year-olds. The change was necessary because more young people are attending graduate school before entering the job market, the bureau said, adding that 6.1 percent of 25 to 29 year olds were unemployed in December.

Part of the challenge for Chinese policymakers is the growing number of college graduates entering the job market. In 2024, the number of college graduates is expected to increase by nearly two percent to a record 11.79 million. According to Xinhua, the state news agency. The number of graduates has quadrupled since 2004.

Finding jobs remains difficult for many young Chinese, as the overall economy remains sluggish compared to the rapid growth of the past. At the same time, the government has also cracked down on once-vibrant industries like online education, technology and real estate, where young people flocked to jobs. As a result, many highly-educated young Chinese – who were told from an early age that education would provide them with opportunities for a better life – are facing the reality that the jobs they want are not available.

“As far as this year’s job market is concerned, the pressure is still there,” Mr Kang admitted. But he pointed to some reasons for optimism, including economic growth that will create more jobs. And he said more people are now leaving the workforce this year than entering it, primarily through retirement.

“They will provide more space for job seekers,” he said.

keith bradsher Contributed reporting from Beijing.

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