With the resurgence of China’s large-scale lockdowns “hitting employment quite hard”, policymakers have pledged to step up support measures, especially for the nation’s record 10 million college graduates. China’s so-called dynamic zero-Covid policy has forced factories and businesses to close over the last two months with the country grappling with its most severe coronavirus outbreaks for two years. The moves are particularly damaging in the likes of Shanghai and Shenzhen that are seen as pillars of the Chinese economy, which is showing signs of distress. “Now we need to place greater importance on stabilising employment. The new round of Covid flare-ups have hit employment quite hard,” Premier Li Keqiang said as he chaired a State Council executive meeting on Wednesday. We must make dedicated efforts to support market entities and keep employment stable Li Keqiang China’s urban surveyed unemployment rate had already risen to 5.8 per cent in March from 5.5 per cent in February, while the rate for people aged from 16 to 24 increased from 15.3 per cent to 16 per cent last month. The State Council on Wednesday pledged to implement more robust measures to facilitate the resumption of production and normal operations of key enterprises on the condition of sound Covid-19 control. It also said it will provide more relief to small businesses, which have been especially hit hard by the lockdowns. “We must make dedicated efforts to support market entities and keep employment stable,” Li added. In the first quarter of the year, the number of jobs available per applicant decreased to 1.56, down from 1.99 in the previous quarter, according to a recent report by the China Institute for Employment Research (CIER) at Renmin University of China and job search website Zhaopin. “Due to the domestic pandemic control situation and uncertainties of the international environment, the domestic job market may be under further pressure in the coming period,” the report said. The job prospects are even dimmer for college graduates, with a record 10.76 million set to enter the market this year. Among fresh university graduates, the number of jobs available per applicant declined for the third consecutive quarter, falling from a recent high of 1.52 in the second quarter of last year to 0.71 between January and March. China’s middle-class households with millions in debt see dreams of financial freedom dashed This represents the lowest point in over two years since China was hit by the initial coronavirus outbreak, according to another report by CIER and Zhaopin. The traditional recruitment demand from big tech and private tutoring has been shrinking since the regulatory crackdowns last year, the report said, while massive lay-offs within both sectors have been widely reported. According to a Zhaopin survey conducted between March and April, 61 per cent of college graduates rated the job market competition this year as “very fierce” – representing a rise of 6 percentage points compared to last year. Meanwhile, 55 per cent of the graduates have lowered their job hunting expectation due to “external factors such as the economic environment”. Li pledged to do “whatever possible to boost job creation, especially for key groups such as college graduates” at the Wednesday meeting, including supporting them to start their own business and subsidising enterprises to provide more internship opportunities. China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security on Wednesday also threw its support behind boosting employment. Chen Yongjia, deputy director of the employment promotion department, said that the ministry would further improve policies to help college graduates launch start-ups and find flexible employment. The ministry will also require state-owned enterprises and public institutions to expand recruitment to offer more vacancies to graduates. “We will insist on promoting the employment of college graduates as the top priority,” Chen said. The State Council meeting on Wednesday also made decisions to launch new projects for farmland irrigation and rural roads construction to add more job opportunities for migrant workers.