Young People Are Fleeing China Over Record High Unemployment

Young people from across the country are flocking to Beijing’s Yonghe Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, hoping to find employment. 

The jobless rate for Chinese youngsters aged 16-24 hit a record high of 20.4% last month, despite the country’s efforts to rebuild its economy. This occurs when young Chinese rethink work-life balance and gravitate toward less strenuous occupations. The situation is only expected to worsen this year, with an additional 11.6% of college graduates entering the labor force.

The economy creates blue-collar jobs while job-seekers seek careers aligning with their ideals, leading to dissatisfaction. In light of the country’s rising youth unemployment and changing values, the Chinese government pressures young people to step up and shoulder the “heavy responsibility of national rejuvenation.” 

Like Mao Zedong in 1969 during his “down-to-countryside” campaign, Xi Jinping encourages young people to work in rural regions and learn about hardship. However, the attitude at the temple implies that young people are aiming lower and are seeking refuge from the oppressive conditions of the Chinese labor market. A senior from Wuhan, a city in central China, doubted that a large technology firm would hire him after graduating.

Instead, he’s searching for a job that’ll provide him with more flexibility than the typical “9-9-6” schedule in China. The State Council of China, the country’s cabinet, released a 2022 survey on employment trends of Chinese college students, and the results showed that Chinese youth were less interested in pursuing high-paying careers and were more willing to accept lower pay and live outside the more expensive “first-tier” megacities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.

The poll revealed that graduates seek stability and a comfortable life, with many opting to enter the public sector or work for state-owned businesses. It is less obvious how the changing attitudes of young people will be affected by the eventual creation of more jobs for young people due to economic growth and consumer spending. A prime example of this trend is Xie Taoyao, a first-year Beijing University student who went there with her boyfriend.

Ms. Xie recently decided it would be too difficult to find employment after completing her degree in engineering management, so instead, she planned to return to Hebei Province, her hometown, and enter the teaching profession. Ms. Xie claimed that while kneeling in the temple, she had prayed to each Buddha individually.