China has stopped publishing monthly data on unemployment among young people, after the figure reached record highs in recent months. The move has sparked criticism and mockery on social media, as many people suspect that the government is trying to conceal the grim reality of the job market.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the urban unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds was 21.3% in June, up from 20.8% in May and 20.4% in April. These were the highest levels ever recorded since the NBS started releasing the data in 2018.
The NBS attributed the high youth unemployment rate to the increase in the number of students in this age group, who are supposed to focus on their studies rather than looking for jobs. However, many analysts and netizens have questioned this explanation, pointing out that China is facing a severe economic slowdown and a lack of job opportunities for young graduates.
China has a record 11.6 million college graduates entering the job market this year, according to the Ministry of Education. They face fierce competition and low wages, as the Chinese economy lost momentum after a post-pandemic rebound in the first quarter. The economy grew by 3.5% year-on-year in the second quarter, down from 6.4% in the first quarter.
China Suspends Youth Unemployment Data
On Tuesday, August 15, 2023, the NBS announced that it would suspend the release of monthly data on youth unemployment, citing the need to improve its methodology and definition. Fu Linghui, a spokesman for the NBS, said that there were different views on whether students looking for jobs before graduation should be included in the statistics, and that the age range of “young job seekers” also needed further study.
The NBS did not give a time frame for when it would resume publishing the data, saying that it would conduct “in-depth research” to enhance its quality. Fu also said that the NBS would continue to release other indicators of employment, such as the overall urban unemployment rate and the number of new jobs created.
The suspension of youth unemployment data was met with disbelief and ridicule on social media, where many people accused the government of hiding the truth and manipulating the numbers. A hashtag about the news garnered 100 million views on Weibo, a popular microblogging platform. “What they really meant to say is, the current data is too ugly, let’s not look at it for now,” said a comment with more than 9,000 upvotes.
China Faces Economic Challenges
The decision to stop releasing youth unemployment data comes at a time when China is facing multiple economic challenges, such as rising inflation, falling consumer spending, slowing industrial production, and regulatory crackdowns on various sectors. Many economists have lowered their growth forecasts for China this year, and some have called for more stimulus measures from the government.
On Thursday, August 17, 2023, China cut its key policy rate — the medium-term lending rate — by 0.1 percentage points to 2.65%. This was the second rate cut in a week, following a similar reduction to the seven-day reverse repo rate on Tuesday. The rate cuts are intended to boost liquidity in the banking system and lower borrowing costs for businesses and consumers.
However, some analysts have warned that monetary easing alone may not be enough to revive China’s economy, and that more fiscal support and structural reforms are needed. They have also urged the government to address the issue of youth unemployment, which could have long-term social and political implications.