Youth Employment and the Pandemic Recovery in the People’s Republic of China

In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), about one-fifth of the youth population was unemployed in 2022, rising through the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. While unemployment rates increased disproportionately in several economies, the youth-to-adult unemployment ratio indicates more challenges for youth workers in the PRC. More broadly, youth unemployment is correlated with adult unemployment rates and worsened by the COVID-19 crisis. Also, country-specific factors contributed to differences in youth unemployment rates during the pandemic.

The high level of youth unemployment in the PRC raises several policy observations. First, more understanding is needed concerning the structural and cyclical factors. Second, the extent to which education has adapted to youth employment needs reassessment. Third, the location preference of youth workers, wages, and alignment with labor market conditions require further policy consideration.

This policy note provides several suggestions to address youth employment in the PRC. Youth workers will benefit from having the skills demanded by the new economy. The services sector should expand its capacity to absorb youth workers as the economy recovers post-pandemic. Enhanced labor mobility, job creation, and improved working conditions in provincial areas with high unemployment but lower cost of living can help encourage youth workers to stay and thrive in rural