China’s economy is in recession, and issues like layoffs and unemployment are becoming more common. However, the official line still promotes “flexible employment,” which has frustrated the public. Moreover, it will be challenging to solve with 10.76 million university graduates this year.
Many companies closed and laid-off workers. Many people have turned to freelance employment as China has been affected by COVID-19 in the past two years. The term “flexible employment” is widely seen as a glorified official term for “unemployment,” although the synonyms for “unemployment” found in Chinese official documents are “freelancing” and “semi-unemployment.”
The state-run China News Service stated that “choosing flexible employment does not mean that you cannot find a job. It is not a casual ‘odd job’, but a completely new employment mode.”
According to the blue book of the “China Flexible Employment Development Report (2022)” published by the China Institute for Employment Research (CIER), 61.14% of Chinese companies used flexible employment in 2021, up 5.46 percent from 2020, and companies are increasingly expanding the scope of flexible employment.
The state-run Guang Ming Daily also wrote that some people believe that young people’s “flexible employment” is actually a helpless choice in a “difficult employment” situation. This type of “work first, then choose a career” situation does exist, but it cannot be generalized. It should also be noted that flexible employment is “the active choice of most young people.”
These state-run media articles have sparked widespread criticism from the Chinese people, who argue that the state-run media appears to want to justify the “flexible employment” of young people who do not have access to jobs as a way to relieve them of responsibility. Some people even question whether the state media encourages young people to invest in “flexible employment” fields like online car-hailing and delivery.
The analysis points out that the reality reflected in “flexible employment” is that the unemployment rate has risen. Moreover, the economic growth rate, which dropped from 18.3 percent to 4.0 percent in four quarters, indicates that the economy is in a recession and that “flexible employment” is an active choice compelled by helplessness.
“Flexible employment” has sparked public outrage at a time when China’s economic climate is poor, and people are generally cautious or even pessimistic about the future.
Furthermore, the number of university and college graduates in China is expected to reach 10.76 million in 2022, surpassing the 10 million mark for the first time, making it difficult for university graduates to find work.
Chinese officials have issued a document saying that they want to promote employment through entrepreneurship and provide 2 million quality jobs for college graduates.
According to a report by mainland Chinese media on Feb. 13, the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC) and eight other departments jointly issued the “Notice on the in-depth Implementation of Entrepreneurship Action Demonstration to promote college graduate employment.”
The content mentioned that they would try to provide 2 million high-quality employment opportunities for university graduates in 2022.
The notice requires that this action demonstration “should closely focus on promoting entrepreneurship and employment among college graduates” to assist graduates in solving outstanding entrepreneurial problems and lower the barrier to innovation and entrepreneurship.
It emphasizes the importance of creating job opportunities for female graduates, families with no income, and families with the lowest living standards in urban areas.
According to a survey conducted by Chinese human resource intermediaries, “ordinary workers,” such as front-line workers, construction workers, service industry workers, cleaners, security guards, domestic helpers, property management, and so on, accounted for about 45% of the positions that could provide “flexible employment” in 2021.
These industries do not require a high level of education, but they are unattractive to college students.