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Chinese youths actively seek jobs, defying Western media smears

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People attend a job fair targeted at the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area held at the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Center in South China’s Guangdong Province on November 22, 2023. Some 1,200 companies participated in the fair, offering nearly 50,000 positions. Photo: VCG

In the face of exaggerated rhetoric used by some Western media outlets to discredit China’s job market, Chinese young people are showing their hard-working and aggressive spirit to seek employment opportunities and achieve personal value.

Chen Jianbin, who runs a photography studio near the St. Sophia Cathedral in Harbin, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, represents this trend. Having seized the opportunity brought by the tourism boom this winter, he and his team decided to operate a photography business in his hometown Harbin, where he earns 10,000 ($2,113) to 15,000 yuan per day.

“I used to work in Xishuangbanna, a famous tourist destination in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province. Business was bad due to fierce competition and shrinking demand.

“When I learned that Harbin was ‘hot’ on social media, I decided to seek my fortune,” the 29-year-old told the Global Times during a recent interview.

The photography sector is gaining popularity. A survey conducted by Zhiyan consulting company showed that China’s photography business market was about 29.73 billion yuan in 2021, and it is estimated to reach 39.53 billion yuan in 2023.

“More and more tourists are coming, and the upcoming Spring Festival holidays will definitely bring a new wave of customers, so I asked my cousins to join me,” Chen said, adding that he and his colleague work almost 16 hours a day.

Chen’s story is a vivid example that defies Western media smears of China’s youth employment.

According to Voice of America, young Chinese have struggled with “the 45-degree life,” in which they are stuck in a dilemma between “lying flat” by avoiding competition and leading a leisurely life, and “rolling up” by striving hard to excel in life’s competitions and become a high achiever. 

Reuters, in a recent report, suggested that Chinese workers are facing salary cuts due to shrinking business and some of them are worried about their jobs as they head home for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.

“The rise of new industries, new business formats and new models that are in line with the flexible employment characteristics of young people, are reshaping China’s job markets,” Li Changan, a professor at the Academy of China Open Economy Studies at the University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

These trends have become important sources of employment that can create a large number of new jobs in a profound way, which has increased the youth employment rate.

According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS), 12.44 million new urban jobs were created in 2023, and the employment situation for college graduates and young people remained basically stable and continued to improve. 

The trend has highlighted the failure and collapse of the West’s attempt to smear China’s youth employment, experts noted. Youth unemployment is a global problem. “It is in fact a crisis for countries all over the world. The unemployment rate in some Western countries is much higher than that in China,” Li said.

The Global Times found that many young people in China are grasping the nettle and taking the initiative to look for new opportunities brought about by China’s economic recovery. They are riding the wave of the tourism boom and new emerging sectors to make their own opportunities. 

Wang Xinyun, a 2022 college graduate in South China’s Fujian Province, highlighted job challenges due to her lower educational qualifications, saying that her peers are navigating civil service exams back in her small county and teacher preparation exams amid fierce competition.

Wang said she lived off savings and parental support after failed attempts to pursue further education. “Now I have found a job in a travel agency in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province where I earn 7,000-8,000 yuan a month, which is a not bad choice,” she said.

As data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed, the registered urban unemployment rate stood at 5.1 percent in December, down 0.1 percent point year-on-year. In comparison, the US national unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in December, up 0.2 percent point year-on-year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Li said the healthy operation of the economy plays a vital role in generating sufficient and high-quality employment. 

“Economic growth is the main force driving employment,” he said, urging the authorities to step up efforts to foster small and medium-sized enterprises and boost the vitality of high-tech start-ups in the fields of artificial intelligence and the digital economy.

The MOHRSS recently rolled out measures to prioritize youth employment, to help them find jobs, such as setting up training camps to improve youths’ job-hunting skills, introducing the recruitment status of key enterprises through the live broadcast platforms and encouraging state-owned companies to offer more internship opportunities.

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