China’s suspension of youth jobless data draws public ire

Construction workers take a nap in front of a wall of a construction site during their lunch break in Beijing

Construction workers take a nap in front of a wall of a construction site during their lunch break in Beijing, China, May 5, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon /File Photo

BEIJING, Aug 15 (Reuters) – China’s statistics bureau said on Tuesday it had suspended publication of youth jobless data, citing the need to improve methodology in the way it measured unemployment among young people, which has hit record highs in recent months.

The decision announced shortly after the release of weaker-than-expected factory and retail sales data sparked a rare backlash on social media amid growing frustration about employment prospects in the country.

“At present the majority of graduating university students have already confirmed their employment destination and their employment situation is generally stable,” said Fu Linghui, a spokesman with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

He added that the graduate employment rate is “slightly higher than in the same period last year”.

Young Chinese are facing their toughest summer job-hunting season after regulatory clamp-downs in recent years left traditional sources of graduate employment — including the property, tech and education sectors — bruised.

The most recent NBS data on youth unemployment, published last month, showed the jobless rate jumping to a record high of 21.3% in June.

Some 47% of graduates returned home within six months of graduation in 2022, up from 43% in 2018, state-run China News Service reported last week, citing a private-sector survey.

The NBS’s Fu said data would be suspended because “the economy and society are constantly developing and changing, statistical work needs to be continuously improved”.

The issue of whether current jobhunting students should be included in jobless statistics and the definition of the age range, “needs further research,” Fu said.

China’s youth unemployment data had tracked the 16-to-24 age bracket.

The NBS’s decision was immediately mocked on Chinese social media, with a related hashtag receiving over 10 million views on microblogging site Weibo.

“If you close your eyes then it doesn’t exist,” read one comment liked over 5,000 times.

“There is a saying called ‘burying your head in the sand’,” wrote another user.

A Chinese professor last month said the country’s true youth jobless rate may have been closer to 50% in March, in rare public comments about the matter published in an article for financial magazine Caixin. That article was later censored.

Reporting by Laurie Chen and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Sam Holmes

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Laurie Chen is a China Correspondent at Reuters’ Beijing bureau, covering politics and general news. Before joining Reuters, she reported on China for six years at Agence France-Presse and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. She speaks fluent Mandarin.