December 2, 2023

Graduation ceremony at Central China Normal University in Wuhan

Graduates, including students who could not attend last year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, attend a graduation ceremony at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, Hubei province, China June 13, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT./File Photo

  • Last year 47% went home within 6 months of graduation
  • Rate grew from 43% in 2018 amid weak economy, high rents
  • Housing costs a key driver
  • Some share beds with strangers to cut costs

BEIJING, Aug 9 (Reuters) – A growing number of Chinese graduates are abandoning the bright lights of the country’s mega-cities, with state media reporting almost half are returning to their hometowns 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.


Not everyone is giving up.

After sending 10 copies of her resume to financial companies each month, Joyce Zhang, a 2022 graduate with a masters degree in financial engineering, said she had still not found a job in Beijing but was not going home yet.

“I’ve considered going back to Inner Mongolia to work, as the financial sector is not doing good recently. But I guess I still want to give it a try,” Zhang told Reuters.

Zhang’s parents are paying her monthly rent of 2,600 yuan ($361) for a 12-square-metre (129-square-foot) room with a shared kitchen and bathroom.

Policymakers have rolled out measures to support youth seeking work and rental housing, with some more creative than others.

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.

One such post was looking for a roommate to share one bed in a room “with a huge balcony” in Beijing. The rental fee: 750 yuan ($104) per month.

($1 = 7.2004 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Ella Cao and Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Conor Humphries

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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