In Chinese cities, one young person out of work is one in five. They should work in the fields, Beijing wants.

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.

The declaration followed President Xi Jinping’s call last December for metropolitan youth to look for occupations in country regions with an end goal to “rejuvenate the rustic economy,” in a reverberation of a past mission sent off many years prior by previous pioneer Mao Zedong in which a huge number of metropolitan youth were successfully banished to distant areas of China.

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. As a record 11.6 million college students are expected to graduate this year and seek employment in a market that is already crowded, the youth unemployment rate could rise further. 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.”

“Dispersing them to smaller villages in the country side could mitigate this risk and, possibly, help diminish income disparities between China’s tier 1 and tier 2 cities and the poorer areas of the country,” reads the statement.

College graduates go to a task fair on June 23, 2022 in Zunyi, Guizhou Territory of China.
1 of every 5 of China’s metropolitan youth are jobless. That presents a significant challenge for Xi Jinping. 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. The private sector, which accounts for more than 80% of employment in China, has also been harmed by regulatory crackdowns on internet, real estate, and education businesses.

No viable options

China’s childhood are the most taught in many years, with record quantities of graduates from universities and professional schools. 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.

Since February, Kong Yiji, a well-known literary figure from the early 20th century, has been one of the most popular memes on Chinese social media. Kong was a man with a lot of education who was poor because he was too proud to work by himself. Young college graduates jokingly claim that their education has ensnared them and forced them to make difficult decisions: seek after a middle class vocation and chance joblessness or “remove their researcher’s outfit” and work a common position they had would have liked to keep away from through instruction. According to Craig Singleton, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “Chinese students, exhausted by pandemic lockdowns and concerned about China’s ever-evolving model of state capitalism, are beginning to realize that a degree may not improve their social position, nor result in some other guaranteed benefit.”

“In this way, not exclusively are Chinese understudies overeducated to meet China’s labor force needs today, they progressively accept that such abilities won’t be esteemed tomorrow
Depleted and without trust, East Asian youth are ‘lying level’
The Kong Yiji image is the most recent pattern via virtual entertainment depicting baffled youth who are dismissing the hustle culture for more straightforward lives. The phrases “letting it rot” and “lying flat” are two other well-known buzzwords.

Specialists, uncomfortable with disappointment communicated through images, have prohibited the hashtag of Kong Yiji. A viral musical parody with extremely sarcastic lyrics about the literary character was also censored last month.

Too picky?

State media is by all accounts moving the fault for the absence of occupations to the actual adolescent. 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.

In an article posted keep going month on its true WeChat account, the Socialist Youth Association approached youthful school graduates to “remove their researcher outfits … roll up their pants and go down to the fields.”

Yet, the articles have drawn significantly additional wrath from jobless youth on the web, who fault the experts for neglecting to make an adequate number of occupations.

Students attend college to avoid blue-collar employment. 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 instruction or even a center school training would do the trick.”

Unrest in society

According to analysts, Xi’s rural policy may also be designed to address the kind of widespread youth unemployment that could lead to 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.

Following the fights, the Chinese government rejected its zero-Coronavirus strategy in an unexpected about-face that likewise came despite steep monetary difficulties.

On February 18, 2023, a large number of job seekers stand in line outside of an exhibition center square in Nanning, Guangxi Province, China. The International Convention and Exhibition Center hosted the Talent Exchange Conference, which featured 1200 booths offering over 50,000 job opportunities.
The economic recovery in China is on course. According to George Magnus, an associate at the China Centre at Oxford University, “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.” However, youth unemployment is getting worse.

“This would be especially sensitive in China, where it would also detract from the necessary conformity with Xi Jinping’s thought and social stability.”

Numerous web-based entertainment clients have communicated disquiet with likenesses between Xi’s approach and the prior crusade sent off by Mao somewhere in the range of 1950s and 1970s.

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.

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