Economic situation in China: The desperate search for work

Status: 07.03.2023 10:58 a.m

China’s economy has suffered greatly from the corona lockdowns. But although the job market is better than expected according to the government, many find it difficult to find a job – especially young people and the low-skilled.

By Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Studio Beijing

The weekly job fair in the Changping district, about 40 kilometers outside of central Beijing, attracts many people. Job seekers and job providers gathered in the morning in front of a district administration building where the fair is taking place. Some have put up signs with requests, others are distributing leaflets with job offers.

“During the pandemic, orders have fallen,” says a 50-year-old factory worker. “I’m paid according to performance, so I earned less. Even now there is still less work, the salary is very low. That’s why I want to find a part-time job.” But factories only rarely offer jobs, he says, more cleaning workers in restaurants or security guards are wanted.

Asked little, got nothing

34-year-old Liu Jing has been to the Changping job fair several times this year. Even today she hasn’t found a job, she says. She doesn’t have any particular ideas: working hours during the day and a salary of 3,000 to 4,000 yuan – around 400 to 500 euros a month.

“Either you have to be willing to work overtime or work late into the evening, but then I can’t look after my two children – or you just don’t earn very much,” she says. Employers have high requirements here, especially in terms of training. “I used to be a saleswoman in a department store. But during Corona, the children had to stay at home, nobody took care of them. Then I had to give up my job.”

Small businesses are struggling for employees

A few meters away, Liu Xiaofeng is distributing leaflets. The 40-year-old is looking for employees for his company, a small business that offers teeth cleaning and oral care. During Corona, they had to close temporarily and lay off employees. But continue to pay rent and electricity – a big burden, according to Liu.

“Young, well-educated people are now more likely to want to work in better companies where there is more activity. For us, as a small company, it is very difficult to find employees,” he says. “During the pandemic everyone was locked up, but now that it’s open I thought more people would be looking for work.” In fact, there are fewer than in previous years.

After three years of a strict zero-Covid policy and the subsequent abrupt and largely unprepared opening, China’s economy is in crisis. Many low-skilled and young people are looking for a job: last year, in the midst of the lockdown, every fifth person between the ages of 16 and 24 was unemployed. In the meantime, the situation has relaxed somewhat. This year, however, more than eleven million university graduates will be pouring into the job market – more than ever before.

Government: Have everything under control

At the current National People’s Congress, the communist government is trying to spread confidence. Premier Li Keqiang admits that there are problems. But the Communist Party has everything under control. According to his work report, five percent economic growth is aimed for this year, after three percent last year. Twelve million new jobs in the cities are to be created. The unemployment rate there should not exceed 5.5 percent.

You can sense a bit of the optimism of the state and party leadership at the job fair in Changping, but not outside on the street, but inside at the actual job fair. Employer representatives are sitting at desks here, with monitors showing job offers hanging above them. State-owned companies are also represented here.

“We need more employees”

“Now there are not only local job boards, but also online,” says this woman, who is recruiting for a state-owned company. “Every district and county has a public service center. They provide very good service. Last year, we also hired many people through their social media account.” This year is going very well, she says. “Sometimes we have a lot of orders, we need more employees.”

A 30-year-old woman leaves the job fair disappointed. She didn’t find anything suitable again today. 40 hours a week and two days at the weekend are hard to find for her right now. “There are many jobs, but it just depends on personal circumstances,” she says. It’s easy for well-trained people – but she doesn’t have a good education and still has to take care of her children. “It’s difficult to find a suitable position.”

China’s job market: Many low-skilled and young people without work

Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Beijing, March 7, 2023 09:34 a.m

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