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Chinese youth staring at bleak job prospect

The Chinese Communist government’s exaggerated claim that the country’s economic boom and rapid development has created fresh opportunities for young people is fast diminishing. There is a growing perception among the youth that their career prospects are bleak due to limited job opportunities, skyrocketing property prices and a widening social wealth gap. For the young Chinese, a higher education degree or additional skills does not guarantee better career prospects.

The country has 8.7 million fresh college graduates this year. These graduates are venting their frustration and disillusionment through the social media which completely differs from the government narrative.

The excessive and fierce competitive work environment among the younger generations is reflected in broader social problems owing to shrinking mobility and the widening wealth gap in the country.

In May, Premier Li Keqiang disclosed that over 600 million Chinese earned an average monthly income of 1,000 Yuan (US$152), a figure that is an indicator of the widening wealth gap in the country. According to data released last year, lack of jobs for college graduates has been reflected in their salaries. Among the university graduates who found jobs, 60 per cent earned the same or less than a migrant worker or a delivery worker.

Over the past few years, China’s labor market stability has been underpinned by the rise in service sector jobs, allowing newly laid-off factory workers to take up employment as delivery drivers or store clerks. But the coronavirus pandemic has broken this virtuous cycle, fanning the government’s worst fears about massive unemployment and the potential to lead to social unrest.

As China’s job market softens, Beijing’s social development goals, including doubling per capita gross domestic product in the decade to 2020 and eradicating poverty, are looking increasingly difficult to attain. There is no government data offering a clear picture on the job market. Experts believe that the official figures underestimate joblessness. Since 2018, China has used the monthly survey-based unemployment rate as its main indicator. The data captures all regular urban residents and does not include an upper age limit.

But to be considered unemployed, an employee needs to have been actively looking for a job for three months. The data also don’t reflect the status of most migrant workers.

Due to the wide-ranging impact of coronavirus on the China’s economy, the ability of workers to transition from manufacturing jobs to new positions in the service sector is becoming increasingly difficult. Service sector mainstays like tourism and hospitality are under major pressure.

Nearly 112 million people were employed directly or indirectly in supply chains that supported exports, according to a study published by the Ministry of Commerce last year. According to other data released recently, the unemployment rate could surge to 9.4 per cent by the end of the year.

In 2019, China had 442 million urban jobs. This year, an additional eight million new jobs were required to keep the unemployment rate roughly unchanged. But, the new job creation will be 6 million lower than last year and the loss of existing jobs is around 14 million. The total number of urban jobs this year will be 20 million lesser than the normal trend, the study revealed. This will compound China’s unemployment problem and will make it difficult for the fresh graduates who join the workforce in 2020.

The surge in college enrollments has outpaced the growth in white-collar jobs, a decade-old phenomenon that complicates China’s efforts to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of college graduates has been growing every year for about two decades..