Daily Outlook

China’s jobs problem runs deeper than the coronavirus

As China grapples with rising unemployment and slowing growth, some say a needed economic boost could come from new business approaches to hiring. Some job listings in China also still go so far as to say applicants must be younger than age 30, or 35. If those requirements, implicit or explicit, remain unchanged, an increasing part of the workforce will be unable to find jobs. As the population ages in the next decade, the 40 to 45 category will become the largest group in China, according to UN projections compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power Project.

The central government has made ensuring jobs a national priority as growth in the world’s second-largest economy has slowed in the last several years. National gross domestic product shrank by 6.8% in the first quarter as efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19 briefly shut down more than half of the country.

The official, although often highly doubted, urban unemployment rate hit a record high of 6.2% in February. In addition to job losses from the coronavirus, the country is set to receive a record high 8.7 million university graduates this year. At the highest level, Chinese authorities already recognize many of the problems that need to be addressed if the country is to keep growing steadily.

That includes better allocation of labor, the World Bank and Development Research Center of the State Council, China’s top executive body, said in a report jointly published in September. Titled “Innovative China: New Drivers of Growth,” the report pointed out three necessary changes given expected declines in the working population:

  • Making it easier for farmers, whose residency status ties them to rural areas, to enter the urban labor system
  • Increasing female labor force participation
  • Enabling older people to stay employed

China’s jobs problem runs deeper than the coronavirus, CNBC, Jul 8

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