The richest province of China has proposed a highly contentious solution as the youth unemployment rate soars: Put 300,000 young people without jobs in the countryside for two to three years to find work.
Last month, Guangdong, the manufacturing powerhouse adjacent to Hong Kong, announced that it would assist college graduates and young entrepreneurs in locating employment in rural areas. Additionally, it encouraged young people from rural areas to seek employment in the countryside.
In an echo of a previous campaign launched decades ago by former leader Mao Zedong in which tens of millions of urban youth were effectively exiled to remote areas of China, the announcement came after President Xi Jinping called for urban youth to look for jobs in rural areas to “revitalize the rural economy.”
The widespread criticism of Guangdong’s plan on social media came at the same time that the urban unemployment rate among 16- to 24-year-olds rose to 19.6%, the second highest level ever recorded.
Based on CNN’s calculations using the most recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics, that equates to approximately 11 million youth without jobs in China’s cities and towns. China just deliveries metropolitan work figures.)The youth joblessness rate could increment further, as a record number of 11.6 million understudies are set to graduate this year and look for occupations in a generally jam-packed market.
Alex Capri, a research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation, said of the demonstrations in November 2022, “If the earlier Covid-19 protests reveal anything, it’s that large numbers of angry, well-educated youth in China’s cities could present big problems for the ruling Chinese Communist Party.”
“Distributing them to more modest towns in the wide open could moderate this gamble and, conceivably, assist with lessening pay abberations between China’s level 1 and level 2 urban communities and the less fortunate region of the country. “China’s economic slowdown is largely to blame for the rise in youth unemployment.
In the past three years, the government’s now-defunct draconian COVID policy severely impacted consumer spending and small businesses. An administrative crackdown on web, land and training organizations likewise hurt the confidential area, which gives over 80% of occupations in China.
No viable options
With a record number of college and vocational school graduates, China’s youth are the most educated in decades. However, as the economy significantly slows, they also face a growing mismatch between their expectations and opportunities.
Young people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the idea that earning a college degree can provide the same returns as it once did because of the increasing uncertainty and lack of social mobility.
Kong Yiji, a popular scholarly figure from the mid twentieth hundred years, has been perhaps of the most sultry image on China’s web-based entertainment since February. Kong was a man with a lot of education who was poor because he was too proud to work by himself.
“Chinese understudies, depleted by pandemic lockdowns and worried about China’s steadily developing model of state free enterprise, are starting to understand that a degree may not advance their social position, nor bring about another reliable advantage,” said Craig Singleton, a senior individual at the Establishment for Safeguard of Majority rule governments.
Therefore, not only are Chinese students overqualified to meet China’s current workforce requirements, but they are also increasingly convinced that these skills will not be valued in the future. “The Kong Yiji meme is the most recent social media trend that describes young people who are disillusioned and rejecting the hustle culture in favor of simpler lives. The phrases “letting it rot” and “lying flat” are two other well-known buzzwords.
The hashtag Kong Yiji has been banned by authorities because they are concerned about dissatisfaction expressed through memes. A viral musical parody with extremely sarcastic lyrics about the literary character was also censored last month.
State media is by all accounts moving the fault for the absence of occupations to the actual young. They have published a series of articles since the Kong Yiji meme went viral, praising young people for being “too picky” about jobs and encouraging them to put their pride aside and work manual labor.
The Communist Youth League urged recent college graduates to “take off their scholar gowns… roll up their trousers and go down to the fields” in an article published last month on its official WeChat account.
However, young people without jobs who blame the authorities for not creating enough jobs have expressed their outrage even more strongly online over the articles.
“Understudies go to college to try not to work in common positions. That’s not being picky, according to Singapore Management University associate professor John Donaldson.
“Understudies would have no need to make the penances of college, when decent professional training or even a center school instruction would get the job done.”
Analysts of social unrest point out that Xi’s rural policy may also aim to address the kind of widespread youth unemployment that could cause social unrest.
At the end of November, thousands of people, many of them young people, protested against China’s zero-Covid strategy in cities across the country. Some of the protesters even dared to openly call for Xi’s removal.
The Chinese government abruptly reversed course after the protests and ended its zero-Covid policy in the face of severe economic difficulties. George Magnus, an associate at the China Centre at Oxford University, stated, “All governments should be concerned about disaffected youth principally because it’s a betrayal of social mobility, but also because young unemployed or those without hope can foment unrest.”
“This would be especially sensitive in China, where it would also detract from the necessary conformity with Xi Jinping’s thought and social stability.”
The similarities between Xi’s policy and the earlier campaign launched by Mao between the 1950s and 1970s have alarmed many social media users.
Many of the tens of millions of urban youth sent to rural areas during the “Down to the Countryside Movement” missed out on opportunities for higher education and were dubbed “China’s Lost Generation” by historians.
Magnus said that Xi’s strategy is similar to Mao’s. However, he is skeptical that the young people of today will “meekly” accept this policy.