Examining China's Youth Unemployment: Perception vs. Reality
China's economy has faced scrutiny regarding its youth unemployment rates, but is the situation as dire as it seems? Contrary to popular belief, China's economy has rebounded strongly since emerging from COVID-19 lockdowns, with a 6.3 percent year-on-year growth in the second quarter of 2023. In fact, China's projected GDP expansion of 5.2 percent this year and 4.5 percent next year surpasses the forecasts for countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. When compared to OECD countries such as Spain, Italy, and Sweden, China's rise in jobless young people appears less concerning, as these countries have experienced persistently high youth unemployment rates.
The perception of China's economic situation can be attributed to the public's expectations shaped by the country's exceptional economic performance over the past few decades. However, Chinese policymakers have long anticipated an inevitable slowdown. While economists predicted a gradual decline in GDP growth to 3-5 percent by 2030, the actual decline came sooner and was sharper due to policy decisions, the trade war with the U.S., and the prolonged economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The assumption that high-skilled jobs, particularly in the tech sector, would be protected from the decline proved incorrect. Recent economic policy decisions, including regulatory actions targeting Big Tech and the ed-tech industry, have had a chilling effect on potential growth industries. Shifting attitudes about the market economy and the ongoing real-estate crisis have further impacted investor confidence and constrained investment. As a result, recent graduates from elite institutions, who were expected to find opportunities in tech and finance, now face a challenging job market with a scarcity of high-wage, high-skilled positions.
The contraction in jobs primarily affects young people, as older workers are protected by labor laws and employers are reluctant to lay them off due to their valuable experience. Recent Chinese graduates now face intense competition for positions that often offer lower wages than before. This reality is difficult to accept for graduates who have dedicated years of intensive studying and hard work to secure a promising future. The mismatch between expectations and reality raises the question of how this will manifest itself in Chinese society.
While soaring youth unemployment does not spell economic apocalypse for China, it poses a challenge in managing the mismatch between expectations and reality. The younger generation, despite facing fewer job opportunities, will still be wealthier than any previous generation due to decades of high economic growth. However, the potential consequences lie in how young people and their families respond to unattainable goals. They may seek satisfaction elsewhere or become disillusioned, leading to unrest and political instability, as seen in other regions. Chinese economic policymakers must navigate this delicate situation carefully.
*This article originally appeared in Project Syndicate.
The Impact of China's Youth Unemployment on the US Business Market and New Companies
China's youth unemployment situation, while concerning, isn't as dire as it may seem. This reality could have significant implications for the US business market and newly formed companies. China's strong economic rebound and projected GDP expansion surpass forecasts for the US, UK, and Germany, indicating that the country's economy remains robust despite the challenges.
However, the contraction in high-skilled jobs, particularly in the tech sector, presents a potential concern. The assumption that these jobs would be immune to economic decline has proven incorrect, with recent Chinese graduates facing a challenging job market. For US businesses and startups, this could mean a potential shift in the global tech industry dynamics. The regulatory actions targeting Big Tech in China could open opportunities for American tech companies to fill the void and expand their market share.
Moreover, the ongoing real-estate crisis and shifting attitudes about the market economy in China could impact investor confidence, potentially redirecting investment towards other markets, including the US. Newly formed companies in the US could benefit from this shift, attracting investment that might have otherwise gone to China.
In conclusion, while China's youth unemployment situation poses challenges for the country, it could present opportunities for the US business market and new companies. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for businesses aiming to navigate the global economic landscape effectively.
Original Story By: Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University