China's youth unemployment rate a state secret?

Yiguchi China Labor Forum 17 August 2023

As China's capitalist economic crisis enters a critical phase, young Chinese workers and students are facing unprecedented threats of unemployment and personal anxiety. The youth unemployment figure released in June hit a record high of 21.3%. On August 15th, China's National Bureau of Statistics announced that it would no longer publish this data from August. Naturally, one is convinced that July's youth unemployment figure must be higher. The decision to stop publishing this politically sensitive information is exactly the same as the CCP’s authoritarian regime abruptly stopped publishing confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection starting last December after the collapse of its unsustainable COVID-19 eradication policy.

21.3%? Or 46.5%?
Earlier this year, Zhang Dandan, an associate professor at Peking University, pointed out that if the 16 million people who gave up looking for jobs and depended on their families were considered unemployed, the actual youth unemployment rate might reach 46.5%. Citing official data from the National Bureau of Statistics in March, Zhang Dandan said that the population aged 16 to 24 in the country is about 96 million, of which the working population is about 32 million, but 6.3 million of them are unemployed; of the 64 million non-working population, 48 million are school students. The remaining 16 million people are groups such as "lying flat" and "chewing the old". Therefore, if these 16 million people are considered unemployed, the youth unemployment population will be 22.3 million (46.5%).

Even so, China's definition and statistical standards for unemployment are extremely strict. According to the official definition, anyone who works more than one hour a week, or "temporarily suspends work", will be counted as "employed". Moreover, only urban household registration is counted, and those with rural household registration who are unemployed will be regarded as "farming". At the same time, universities are also working together to falsify the employment status of fresh graduates.

According to the regulations of the Ministry of Education, for colleges and universities whose employment rate has been lower than 60% for two consecutive years, the enrollment plan will be reduced until the enrollment is stopped. Therefore, in order to survive, many colleges and universities force graduates to sign fake employment agreements in order to obtain graduation certificates. According to a report by the Chinese media "Beijing Youth Daily", online shopping platforms only cost 68 yuan, and you can buy a fake employment agreement to help graduates and schools get away with it. Numerous graduates say these things have long been an open secret on campus. In the official documents of the Henan Provincial Department of Education, it is even stated that the unemployed graduates will be "dynamically cleared."

"Hardest Job Hunting Season Ever"
For fresh graduates, a total of 11.58 million people graduated from universities across the country this year, the number hitting a record high. In addition, China is in the midst of a historic capitalist economic crisis, and the deepening of the Cold War situation has also severely damaged China's industrial upgrading plan. Therefore, employment pressure is extremely high, and this year (once again) is called "the most difficult season in history to find a job." . The irony is that since 2020, every year has been "the most difficult job hunting quarter in history".

The fundamental reason is that the Chinese economy in crisis cannot provide enough jobs, especially jobs suitable for college graduates. But even if graduates are willing to "employ at a low price", grassroots jobs may not be easy to find. Cinda Securities released a research report in June 2022, pointing out that to stabilize employment, the bottom line of economic growth is roughly 4%. But even according to the official figures, last year's growth was only 3.6%, when in fact, our previous article pointed out that the more likely scenario is zero growth. This means that last year it was already impossible to "digest" the newly growing labor force, and the addition of the newly unemployed population formed by the economic crisis this year has made the youth employment situation even worse. As a result, some young people choose to be "full-time children" after graduation, taking care of their elderly parents through housework, so as to continue to rely on their parents for a living. Although we agree that housework also has its labor value and deserves to be paid, it is clear that under the current conditions, this is just an expedient measure for young people, rather than their voluntary choice.

Essentially, unemployment is a necessary element of the capitalist system. It is precisely because of the existence of the unemployed as an "industrial reserve army" that the capitalists have the space to lower the wages of workers as much as possible. Coupled with the lack of democratic rights under the CCP, any independent trade unions will be quickly suppressed by the regime, making the internal competition among workers even more tragic, and this is the "involution" that is often talked about by young people in China.

Serious youth unemployment is also seriously weakening the prestige of the Xi Jinping regime. Dissatisfaction with the CCP regime and cynicism against Xi Jinping are full of dissatisfaction with the CCP regime and cynicism among young people on the Internet who complain about unemployment and anxiety about their future. In a new phase of the economic and social crisis, workers and youth may launch explosive protests that will far surpass even the short-lived "blank paper protests" of last year. What we need now is to organize this force to rescue the oppressed youth and working class from unemployment, capitalist economic crisis, authoritarian rule, and imperialist Cold War with a democratic socialist alternative.


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