Are young people in China being deprived of prosperity?

Are young people in China being deprived of prosperity?

world mirror

University graduates posted photos of themselves on Chinese social media this year: some are lying flat on the street in their fine, long graduation robes, others are throwing away their diplomas. You are frustrated because from now on it is an uncertain future.

Finding a suitable job is becoming increasingly difficult for young people with a university degree in China. One in five people between the ages of 16 and 24 is unemployed. This summer, 11.6 million young university graduates will be entering the job market – twice as many as ten years ago.

For decades, China’s economy grew rapidly. Growing prosperity led to social advancement, and more people were able to study. But now there are not enough jobs for college graduates.

“Why doesn’t this work anymore all of a sudden?”

The Chinese social anthropologist Xiang Biao, who conducts research on social transformation in China at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle an der Saale, describes it as the end of the Chinese economic miracle.

The economy is growing more slowly, the reasons for this are manifold: the strict zero-Covid policy during the corona pandemic, weak consumption, the slump in Chinese foreign trade as a result of a weak world market due to the war in Ukraine, the real estate crisis, crackdown of the state in the tech industry.

Secretly as delivery driver on the way

For many young Bachelor graduates, this development means that they simply continue studying. In Beijing this year, for the first time, there are more master’s and doctoral degrees than bachelor’s degrees.

Millions are applying for government service. Others move back in with their parents or take low-wage jobs. It is estimated that one in five drivers at Meituan, one of China’s largest food delivery companies, has a college degree.

A 24-year-old in Shanghai is one of them: “After graduating, I couldn’t find a suitable job for a long time and I didn’t have any income either,” says the young Chinese. “When I saw the job advertisement as a delivery driver, it seemed quite lucrative to me.”

He would like to remain anonymous. Because friends and family don’t even know that he does this job. He is ashamed. He earned 37 euros in one day. He actually studied statistics. His parents believe that after graduating, he went to the Chinese financial hub of Shanghai to get an office job.

Get out of the city and into the country

The Chinese state and party leadership has its own answer to youth unemployment. She wants to encourage young people to move to the countryside – out of the cities where there aren’t enough jobs.

This should also revitalize rural areas economically. The prosperity gap between urban and rural areas in China is very large.

There are numerous government programs to send young people to work in the countryside. 22-year-old Zhang Yuxin is currently taking part in one in the Chinese region of Jiangsu. Brimming with national pride, she has helped farmers with sowing and harvesting and works for a local village administration. Later she might want to continue working in the civil service.

“I think the problem of youth unemployment is very serious. Especially after three years of Corona, many companies have gone bankrupt or had to cut jobs,” she says. The government program could be a stepping stone for young people.

Mao-like measures

The measures are reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s, when millions of young people were forced to go to the countryside to work there. Back then, that helped against urban unemployment, says Wang Dan, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank in Shanghai. But today the situation looks very different.

Rural wages in China are still much lower than in the cities, Wang Dan said. There is also a lack of a modern lifestyle. Some could make money from online streaming and sell local products through the TikTok app. “But the majority of young people don’t want to live in the Chinese countryside.”

#fulltime children instead of on your own two feet

Living with your parents is a different matter. Some who are looking for a job in vain are drawn back to their parents in the country, even without government-funded programs.

This haunted the Chinese social media with the hashtag “fulltimechildren” – “fulltime children”. They then help in the household, show at home that they can work and often receive accommodation, food and money from their parents.

But not everyone can imagine that. After all, their parents didn’t send them to university so that they could come back to the country, they say. For many, the modern city, combined with social advancement, is still the dream destination.

The Weltspiegel reports on this topic on August 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the first.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here