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China’s job vacancies grow in second quarter as labour demand bounces back from coronavirus outbreaks

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 21/07/2021 Ji Siqi
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Job applicants read recruitment information at a job fair in Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province. Photo: Xinhua Job applicants read recruitment information at a job fair in Wuhan, in central China’s Hubei province. Photo: Xinhua

Job vacancies in China grew in the second quarter of the year, although the increase was uneven across sectors and regions, reflecting the nation's patchy economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, a new employment survey shows.

The number of jobs available per applicant increased to 2.09 between April and June, up from 1.66 in the first quarter and 1.35 in the same period last year, according to the survey conducted by the China Institute for Employment Research (CIER) at Renmin University of China and job search website Zhaopin.

"The domestic pandemic situation largely stabilised in this quarter. Demand for recruitment has increased significantly," said the CIER report, which was released on Tuesday.

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Compared to the softer job market in the first three months of the year - when some parts of the country were in lockdown after being hit by sporadic coronavirus outbreaks - the number of vacancies increased 28.25 per cent in quarter two, exceeding the 1.97 per cent rise in the number of jobseekers, CIER said.

How is China's unemployment rate measured and why is it important?

The trend indicated by the survey is in line with China's falling unemployment rate.

The survey's findings are in line with China's declining official surveyed unemployment rate. It stood at 5 per cent in June, 0.5 percentage points lower than at its highest point this year in February, and 0.7 percentage points lower than the same period last year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said last week.

"The drop in the urban unemployment rate is mainly attributed to the continuous and stable economic recovery and employment stabilisation policies," said NBS spokeswoman Liu Aihua.

New job vacancies were mostly among large enterprises, with openings surging by 119.27 per cent from the same time last year, and 82.06 per cent from the first quarter, according to the CIER report.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for more than 90 per cent of employment, but have been hit hard by the sporadic lockdowns and surging raw material prices, offered fewer positions, with the report showing more than one applicant applied for every SME job.

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Jobs offered by foreign firms dropped by 24.27 per cent year on year in the second quarter, with the number of jobseekers looking for roles with these firms contracting 24.31 per cent.

Despite buoyant numbers overall, young graduates are still facing a tough time finding work, the NBS said.

The unemployment rate for urban youth aged 16-24 - including graduates from high schools, vocational schools and universities - was 15.4 per cent in the second quarter, the highest rate since September 2020, as a record 9.09 million university graduates enter the job market this summer, surpassing the number of vacancies.

"The surging unemployment rate among people aged 16 to 24 is mainly due to the structural gap caused by the increasing supply of graduates and the diminishing job opportunities in the post-pandemic era," Guo Lei, principal economist at GF Securities, said in a note last week.

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Regionally, the employment situation in China's wealthier southeastern coastal areas such as the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta was better than major cities in the north, the CIER report showed. The capital Beijing managed only 0.46 jobs for every applicant.

Despite China's recent regulatory crackdowns on the after school tutoring industry, jobs ads for family tutors grew ninefold from the same period last year, and the demand for schoolteachers also increased.

Despite a "stable" employment situation, the domestic and international environment remains complex and China must consolidate economic stability, Zhang Yi, director general of the department of population and employment statistics at the NBS, said last week.

"The recovery of some face-to-face service industries is still relatively slow, there are insufficient jobs in related industries and the employment field is still facing certain pressure," Zhang said.


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