China is set to release its May unemployment rate today.
In January, China reported an unemployment rate of 5.3%, which climbed to a record 6.2% in February. April’s unemployment remained relatively high at 6.0%, with over 80 million people out of work.
Government officials—fearing unrest among the newly jobless—have prioritised job stability. The official unemployment statistic does not include migrant or rural workers, groups that are likely experiencing much higher unemployment rates. By not being counted in the labour force, migrant and rural workers are beginning to question their rights. In addition, the validity of China’s official statistic has been brought into question: several independent brokerage firms have estimated the real rate as high as 20% in their statements, which they have been forced to retract.
Recent graduates typically make up about 60% of China’s new labour force annually. As the number of university graduates increases to an expected 8.7 million this year, watch for the Chinese domestic job market to become increasingly strained as students look for work. While authorities have assembled a support plan that will include unemployment insurance, it may not be enough to prevent unrest if China’s real unemployment numbers do not improve in the coming months.
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Alessia is a researcher and analyst for Foreign Brief's Current Developments Team. She contributes to the Daily Brief with a special focus on Latin American politics.