China’s young people are still having a hard time finding jobs

Candidates are preparing to find jobs on the spot at job fairs in Fuyang, China.

Sheldon Cooper | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

BEIJING — One year since the coronavirus pandemic hit, China’s young people are still having a hard time finding jobs.

The unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24 was 13.1{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} as of February, far above the national urban jobless rate of 5.5{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1}, the National Bureau of Statistics said Monday.

The 13.1{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} young people’s unemployment rate is the same as it was during the first quarter last year, the height of the coronavirus outbreak within China.

The high figure implies “continuous challenge from underemployment and pressure on the job market,” said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance. He added that based on a contraction in labor measures from monthly government and third-party surveys, companies don’t seem eager to fill vacancies as momentum in the economic recovery slows.

Young people face particularly high competition for jobs.

This year, a record 9.09 million students are expected to enter the workforce, surpassing last year’s record of 8.74 million, according to official figures.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the number of new urban jobs fell to 13.52 million in 2019, down from 13.61 million in 2018, according to official figures. Last year, as the world struggled to recover from the pandemic, just 11.86 million new urban jobs were created.

China aims to create 11 million new urban jobs this year, and achieve an unemployment rate of 5.5{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1}.

In an annual review of the economy this month, Premier Li Keqiang said there is “mounting” pressure on ensuring people have jobs. China’s economy grew 2.3{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} last year and authorities have set a conservative growth target of over 6{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} for this year.

In contrast with countries that have handed out cash to citizens to stimulate spending, China has focused on supporting businesses — and their employees — with tax cuts and cheaper loans. Li shared with reporters Thursday how the owner of a store hit by the pandemic was able to keep the business’ roughly 20 workers afloat with a living allowance.

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