Labor & Workforce

Graduates confront unemployment, job market saturation in China

Beijing, Jul 17 (EFE).- Millions of young university graduates in China are struggling to find work amid the economy’s sluggish recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, with some now choosing to leave urban life behind to pursue success and prosperity in more rural areas of the country.

More than one in five people between the ages of 16 and 24 in China are out of work, according to data for May 2023 released by the National Bureau of Statistics, the highest unemployment rate in the country’s history.

And with a record 11.6 million college students graduating this year and entering the already saturated job market, employment prospects in China’s big cities are looking increasingly slim for many.


Bi Xinyue, 22, who recently graduated with a major New Media, has applied to around 400 jobs but has not even had 10 interviews, with no offers forthcoming.

“Nearly 70 percent of my classmates are not currently sure if they can find a proper job after graduation,” she tells EPA-EFE.

Given the high unemployment rate, she says she has already given up looking for a “dream job” as “stability is more important.”

But even those of her former classmates who have been lucky enough to land a job have found that salaries are steadily declining, making life in cities like the capital unaffordable to many young people.

“One of my senior classmates got an internship at a film company last year. The monthly salary was around 5,000 RMB (639 euro) and now it is only around 3,000 RMB, and to rent a shared flat in Beijing is at least 3,000 RMB a month,” Bi says.

Another recent graduate, Zhang Siyuan, 24, who has a major in Arts and Painting, has been unemployed for nearly eight months.

He used job-seeking apps but has hardly received any replies to his numerous applications, and the only offers have been for jobs that are underpaid or unrelated to his degree.

Zhang says a lack of internship opportunities during China’s tough three-year Covid lockdown, mean that many young people don’t have relevant experience.

“Many of my peers in college haven’t found a proper job after graduation either, they also complain about job offers which are much lower than their expectations,” he says.

The highly saturated job market in China’s metropolises is pushing many young people to abandon city life, following President Xi Jinping’s call in December 2022 to “revitalize the rural economy.”


Wang Bangle, a 26-year-old university graduate, has decided to return to Xiaogou, a remote mountain village near Ankang, a city in Shaanxi province in central China.

After leaving the largely impoverished area to get a degree in marketing, he got a job after graduation working as a salesman in Chengdu, in Sichuan province.

But his monthly wage of just 3,500 RMB was barely enough to survive in the bustling provincial capital that is home to over 16 million people.

With a low salary and limited job prospects, he returned to his hometown in Shaanxi to set up his own business in 2022.

“I just want to go back to my hometown and build it well. Our purpose in receiving higher education in the city is not to escape from rural areas, but to serve the countryside in a better way, while building our home village into a better place,” he says.

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