Am I not worth it?” Liu Qian asked. “From the moment I started looking for a job, I felt as if my future were smashed by a machine, and I didn’t know if I could put it back together.

The Associated Press reported that Liu received her master’s degree this year. She said that two recruiters interviewed her and later said the position was no longer available. Other employers have asked her to accept a lower salary.

The Chinese Communist Party has implemented a strict zero COVID policy, forcing factories, restaurants, and other industries to close, and surviving businesses are cutting jobs and wages. In such a bleak job market, Liu is one of 11 million fresh graduates looking for work. Luckily, Liu was hired by a publisher at the end of July.

Liu, 26, said some employers were hesitant when she asked for a monthly salary of $1,200 (8,000 yuan). The average monthly salary for college graduates last year was $1,500 (9,800 yuan), according to job search site

According to the China Employment Research Institute and another job search website, in the quarter ending with June, nearly two graduates competed for each vacancy, up from 1.4 in the previous quarter.

The unemployment situation comes in a politically sensitive year for the CCP as General Secretary Xi Jinping prepares for a third term at the CCP’s 20th National Congress later this year.

Graduates who come from urban families are an important source of political support. The ruling CCP needs them to be employed jobs to promote the industry, especially those with technical training.

Official data shows that in June, the unemployment rate among 16- to 24-year-olds in China was close to 20%. This number is expected to increase when new graduates are included.

Young people face job pressure

Also according to AP, Tao Yinxue (陶银雪), a graduate of the class of 2021, is preparing for the civil service exam in Anhui province and is also looking for other jobs. She submitted more than 120 job applications and contacted nearly 2,000 potential employers online.

With fewer jobs and more people looking for work, Tao said that companies may have more options. “They would prefer those with experience rather than a green kid like me.”

Still other graduates are postponing work, choosing to stay at school or take the civil service exam.

To make matters worse, the zero COVID policy has closed in-person job fairs and postponed civil service exams.

Fang Zhiyou (方志友), an accounting graduate in Hubei Province, said her civil service exam was delayed from March to July, disrupting her search plan for a job.

“If not for the pandemic, my exam would not have been delayed and I would not have struggled for so long,” said Fang. “I hate the pandemic forever.”

“If I don’t have a job this year, for sure it will become more difficult next year,” Fang said.

Rockee Zhang, chief executive officer of recruitment firm Randstad Greater China, said according to Reuters: Entry-level positions in China’s job market are even worse than that during the 2008 -2009 global financial crisis, and new jobs are estimated to have fallen by 20 to 30 percent from last year.

“This year is a low point, the lowest I’ve seen,” said Zhang, who has worked in recruitment for 20 years.

In China, if they do not have a job for a period of time after graduation, employers will discriminate against them. Many families see it as some kind of shame, heavier than the financial loss.

Vicente Yu graduated in 2021. But since losing his job at a media company late last year, he hasn’t found work. His father didn’t want him to come home. Yu, 21, said he often has trouble sleeping due to anxiety.

Uncertainty in the labor market is increasing

Today’s job market is considered the worst in China in decades, as the Chinese economy is affected not only by the CCP’s strict zero COVID policy, but also by the real estate market crash, and the CCP’s repressive policy toward the high-tech industry.

Tech companies like Tencent and Alibaba, once a major source of employment for aspiring graduates, have also reported layoffs.

Premier Li Keqiang said in March that the regime wanted to create 11 million to 13 million new jobs this year, but he did not say how many jobs could be lost as a result of companies shutting down. Li said an estimation of 16 million people are looking for work.

The cost for the CCP’s strict zero COVID policy is also skyrocketing.

AP quoted Zhang Chenggang from the Capital University of Economics and Business as saying that the repeated lockdowns have caused factories, offices in Shanghai, and other industrial centers to close, disrupting the traditional labor market. Companies are “cutting back on hiring.”

“In the future, we will face the challenges of technology,” he said. “Uncertainty in the labor market may even increase. So for university students, the most important thing is the ability to adapt.”

Uncertainty appears in industries right across the board. Internet companies are laying off workers after the CCP tightened controls with antitrust and data security investigations. The real estate sector is in decline after regulators enforced regulations on the use of debt.

According to data released by the CCP’s National Bureau of Statistics on July 15, the GDP (gross domestic product) in the second quarter increased by 0.4% year-on-year, the slowest growth since the outbreak. 

The service sector, which often employs a large number of young people, is a mainstay of employment in China. But the industry has been severely affected by epidemic prevention measures.

On July 28, the Politburo, the CCP’s top policymaking body, issued an announcement after its quarterly economic meeting, no longer mentioning the economic growth target of 5, 5%, but says the goal for the second half of the year is “striving for good results,” keeping the economy operating within a reasonable margin. Many believe this is the CCP’s disguised admission that the economy will fall short of its 5.5% growth target.

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