Untold Figures Reveal China’s Youth Unemployment Possibly Doubles Official Rate

**China’s Post-COVID Recovery Challenges**
China’s post-COVID recovery has faced challenges due to the ailing property market, surging local government debt, and weak consumer spending. These factors have forced Beijing to lower interest rates and provide targeted stimulus to boost the economy. Additionally, China is grappling with a sky-high youth unemployment rate, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The official unemployment statistics may not accurately reflect the true extent of the problem, as many young Chinese workers have taken themselves out of the labor market. This phenomenon, known as “lying flat,” has become a response to the societal pressure to overwork. In an attempt to address the issue, the government has called on young, educated Chinese to take blue-collar roles they may feel overqualified for. However, the government’s efforts to lower the unemployment rate among college graduates have also led to problems, including the falsification of employment records. This has prompted the Ministry of Education to crackdown on universities and investigate the accuracy of employment data.

**The Impact of China’s Ailing Property Market and Local Government Debt**

China’s property market has been experiencing significant challenges, contributing to the country’s post-COVID recovery difficulties. The property crisis has led to a decline in property investment, impacting various sectors of the economy. This decline, coupled with surging local government debt, has put additional strain on China’s economic recovery. To alleviate the situation, Beijing has lowered interest rates and introduced targeted stimulus measures. However, these efforts have not yet resulted in a swift recovery.

**China’s Weak Consumer Spending and the Need for Stimulus**

Consumer spending plays a vital role in the economic growth of any country. In China, weak consumer spending has further hindered the post-COVID recovery. The reluctance of consumers to spend is influenced by various factors, including economic uncertainty, reduced income, and a cautious approach to spending amidst the ongoing pandemic. In response to this challenge, the Chinese government has implemented stimulus measures such as cash subsidies and tax relief to encourage consumer spending. However, these measures alone have not been sufficient to jumpstart the economy.

**The Rise of Youth Unemployment in China**

One area that has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is youth unemployment in China. Even before the pandemic, young Chinese workers faced difficulties in finding employment due to a competitive job market. However, the situation has dramatically worsened since the outbreak. In June, the unemployment rate for Chinese youth aged 16 to 24 reached a record high of 21.3%, compared to a 4.1% unemployment rate for those aged 25 to 59.

**The True Extent of Youth Unemployment in China**

The official youth unemployment statistics provided by China’s National Bureau of Statistics do not paint an accurate picture of the situation. According to Peking University economics professor Zhang Dandan, the true youth unemployment rate could be as high as 46.5%. This discrepancy arises because China only includes individuals actively seeking work in its unemployment calculation, whereas the U.S. counts those available for work. Zhang argues that there are 16 million young Chinese workers who have opted out of the labor market, a phenomenon known as “lying flat,” and are not reflected in the unemployment statistics.

**The “Lying Flat” Movement: Rejecting Societal Pressure**

The rise of the “lying flat” movement in China reflects the dissatisfaction and rejection of societal pressures to overwork. Many young Chinese individuals have adopted a minimalist lifestyle and opted for the bare minimum in their work lives. This movement has gained traction, particularly among the youth, and has contributed to the high youth unemployment rate. However, it also represents a growing concern for the Chinese government, which seeks to encourage productivity and economic growth.

**Government Response and Solutions**

The Chinese government has implemented various measures to address the youth unemployment issue. President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party have called on young, educated Chinese to consider blue-collar roles they may feel overqualified for, encouraging them to “actively seek hardship.” Beijing has also introduced a 15-point plan to boost youth employment, which includes support for worker retraining and the creation of new government jobs. Additionally, China’s Ministry of Education has taken a hard stance on universities to reduce the unemployment rate. They have warned that college majors with consistently low employment rates could face cancellation. However, this approach has resulted in universities pressuring graduates to falsify employment records.

**Challenges with Employment Data Accuracy**

The reliability of employment data in China has come into question due to the pressure faced by universities to achieve the government’s employment rate goals. Some universities have reportedly compelled graduates to falsify employment records to meet their targets. As a result, the Ministry of Education has initiated a broad investigation into the accuracy of employment data. The ministry has pledged to punish those found guilty of falsifying employment records and emphasized the importance of genuine and accurate employment data.

In conclusion, China’s post-COVID recovery has been hampered by challenges in the property market, local government debt, and weak consumer spending. The youth unemployment rate has also soared, with many young Chinese workers opting out of the labor market. The true extent of youth unemployment may be even higher than reported, as individuals who have “lied flat” are not included in official statistics. The government has responded with various measures to address youth unemployment, but challenges remain, including the falsification of employment records by universities. Clear and accurate data on unemployment and effective policies are essential to overcome these challenges and drive China’s economic recovery forward.

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