China says overall pressure on employment yet to ease

By Thomson Reuters Mar 9, 2024 | 2:05 AM

By Ellen Zhang, Liangping Gao and Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China still faces structural employment issues and the pressure on jobs has not eased, the country’s human resources minister said on Saturday, as the slowing economy braces for another record number of college graduates in 2024.

The job market has seen a good start to the year, particularly in the artificial intelligence and big data segments, said Human Resources Minister Wang Xiaoping, adding that 32,000 job fairs have been held so far in 2024.

Still, authorities will strengthen policy support to improve youth employment and step up support for small private firms, Wang told a news conference on the sidelines of an annual parliament meeting in Beijing.

China could see 11.79 million college graduates this year, she added, reiterating an education ministry forecast.

At the start of the annual parliamentary session this week, the government unveiled its 2024 target for economic growth, aiming for an expansion of “around 5%”. China’s gross domestic product grew 5.2% last year.

But headline indicators have tended to underplay the tensions in China’s vast job market, especially among young jobseekers including the millions of college graduates looking for work each year.

More than one in four of the roughly 100 million Chinese aged 16-24 were unemployed in June 2023, the last data point before officials at the central statistics bureau abruptly suspended the series.

China resumed publication of the data in January this year, but excluded college students from it, and put youth unemployment at 14.9% in December.

Wang said China will improve the “willingness” of young people to learn skills in factories.

Beijing aims to create over 12 million new urban jobs this year and keep its survey-based urban unemployment rate at around 5.5%.

A total of 12.44 million urban jobs were added last year, with the average urban unemployment rate at 5.2%, according to official data.

(Reporting by Ellen Zhang, Liangping Gao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Sam Holmes)