Disenchanted Young Chinese Are “Lying Flat” or Joining the Bureaucracy

(p. A1) HEFEI, China—More than one in five young people in China are jobless. The government casts much of the blame on the job seekers themselves, insisting that their expectations have gotten too high.

. . .

The government’s guidance is ringing hollow with many young people. Growing up in a period of rising prosperity, they were told that China was strong, the West was declining and endless opportunities awaited them. Now, with the urban youth unemployment rate hitting a record of 21.3% in June, their employment frustrations are posing a new challenge to Xi and his vision for a more powerful China.

For the estimated 11.6 million college graduates in 2023, having heeded calls by the state to study hard, the prospect of resorting to the physical labor that many of their parents performed is distinctly unappealing.

. . .

(p. A10) The problem isn’t that jobs don’t exist in China. They do. With its shrinking population, China needs workers as much as ever. It is that China’s weakened economy isn’t producing enough of the high-skill, high-wage jobs that many college students have come to expect.

This is especially so after Xi’s targeting of the private sector in recent years with regulatory crackdowns on technology and other companies.

Disenchanted, many young people are opting out of the job market entirely, or “lying flat,” as many of them call it. Chinese media has recently featured articles about young “drifters” who live hand-to-mouth and pick up odd jobs as they roam the country.

Many of those who still want to work have soured on the private sector, with surging numbers of people sitting for the country’s civil-service exam for a chance at a low-paid, but stable, role in China’s bureaucracy.

For the full story, see:

Brian Spegele. “Unemployed Youth Cast Pall Over China’s Economy.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, July 27, 2023): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 26, 2023, and has the title “How Bad Is China’s Economy? Millions of Young People Are Unemployed and Disillusioned.”)

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