Chinese graduates are abandoning their big city dreams and heading back to their provincial homes as the country’s youth unemployment crisis deepens.
State media reported almost half of graduates are returning to their home towns within six months of graduation amid a sagging job market.
Feeling the pinch of rising housing costs and a slowing economy, the jobless graduates are forfeiting cities that have traditionally provided a stepping stone to middle-class wealth. To save money, some have even resorted to sharing a bed with a stranger.
China’s youth jobless rate jumped to a record 21.3% in June as offers during the traditional job-hunting season proved limited as the economy struggled and regulatory clamp-downs left the property, tech and education sectors bruised.
In June, a statistics bureau official said that more than 6 million young people were unemployed.
Some 47% of graduates returned home within six months of graduation in 2022, up from 43% in 2018, state-run China News Service reported on Tuesday, citing a private sector survey.
The numbers varied by region, with 59% of graduates in the well-developed east heading home. That compared to 44% in the west and just 24% in the northeast rust belt.
Also pushing the young to return home were soaring rents. Among China’s biggest first-tier cities, rents in Beijing climbed 5% from December to June followed by 2.8% gains in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.
A district in Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province offers free rent for eligible people in a nursing home, as long as they spend 10 hours or more a month with the elderly and pay a 300 yuan management fee.
To keep costs down as they stay longer in hope of finding a job, some young mega-city drifters even share their beds with strangers. On China’s Instagram-like Xiaohongshu and WeChat groups, “seeking bedmates” posts have become more common.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara