China’s ‘jobless rate’ hits 15-year low but flood of graduates on horizon

Ministry says there is still an imbalance between low-skilled labour supply and high-end job demand

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 2:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 9:08pm

China’s survey-based jobless rate fell to 3.9 per cent in 2017 – the lowest since 2002 – as the country witnessed its first economic rebound in seven years, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said on Friday.

China created a “record-high” 13.51 million new jobs last year, a growth of 370,000 compared with the previous year, according to an official transcript of a press briefing held by the ministry published online.

Ministry spokesman Lu Aihong said employment prospects would become more “complicated” this year due to “still abundant” economic uncertainties both at home and abroad, but he was hopeful the labour market would remain stable overall.

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A record 8.2 million college graduates would enter the workforce in 2018, Lu said, while millions of rural residents were expected to move to urban areas for work, further adding pressure to the tight labour market.

Still, a “structural conflict” between low-skilled labour supply and high-end job demand had become increasingly acute, Lu said.

China reallocated a total of 380,000 people in 2017 from heavy industries such as steel and coal under a government-led campaign to cut excess capacity, the ministry said.

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China’s official unemployment rate has remained generally stable despite slowing economic growth and the government forging ahead with plans to cut back industrial capacity.

But many analysts say the official data is an unreliable indicator of employment conditions, as it measures only employment in urban areas and does not take into account the millions of migrant workers that form the bedrock of China’s labour force.