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Spotlight on China's Youth Unemployment Crisis: The Rise of "Full-Time Children" and the Struggles of Recent Graduates

Spotlight on China's Youth Unemployment Crisis: The Rise of "Full-Time Children" and the Struggles of Recent Graduates

Young Chinese adults are facing a tough job market and gruelling work hours, leading some to choose to return home and become "full-time children".
This phenomenon has been driven by a combination of factors, including high youth unemployment, job burnout, and age discrimination.

Many young people are struggling to find work, with official figures showing that more than one in five of those aged between 16 and 24 are jobless.

This has led to a rise in the number of young people opting to return home to recharge and look for better job opportunities.

However, finding a job can be difficult, even for those who have left their previous employment.

Many young people feel overworked and undervalued, leading to burnout and a sense of being trapped in their current situation.

The pressure to work long hours, known as the "996 work culture", is a major contributor to this issue.

Some young people are choosing to start their own businesses or pursue other opportunities, but this can be a risky move in a job market that is increasingly hostile to older workers.

Overall, the situation facing young Chinese adults is complex and challenging, with many struggling to find a balance between work and personal life.

Graduation season in China has been marred by a surge of disillusionment among the fresh graduates, as evidenced by a deluge of unconventional graduation photos on Chinese social media.

These photos depict young people "lying flat" in their graduation gowns, faces covered with mortarboards, or holding their graduation certificates above dustbins, ready to bin them.

Not too long ago, university was an elite pursuit in China.

However, between 2012 and 2022, enrolment rates skyrocketed from 30% to 59.6% as more and more young people viewed college degrees as a ticket to better job opportunities in a highly competitive job market.

Unfortunately, aspirations have given way to disappointment as the job market has taken a nosedive.

Experts predict that youth unemployment is likely to worsen, as a record 11.6 million fresh graduates are set to enter the market this year.

"The situation is quite bad," says Miriam Wickertsheim, director at Shanghai-based recruitment firm Direct HR.

"People are tired, and many are trying to opt out.

There is a lot of despair." China's slower-than-expected economic recovery post-Covid is a key reason for the high unemployment, according to Bruce Pang, chief economist for Greater China at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Employers are also less willing to hire "blank paper" graduates who have less work experience than their predecessors due to the sustained Covid lockdown.

Additionally, China's recent crackdowns on industries popular among young Chinese professionals have led to job cuts.

Regulations against major tech companies, restrictions on the tutoring industry, and a ban on foreign investment in private education have all contributed to the job market's choking.

While China's government is well aware of these problems, it has tried to downplay them.

In May, Chinese leader Xi Jinping was quoted on the front page of the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper, urging young people to "eat bitterness," a Mandarin expression that means to endure hardship.

State-run media, meanwhile, has tried to
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