Local Youth Flee To The Countryside As Job Market Worsens



Gong Chengqiang used to make 200,000 yuan a year at a tech firm in Hangzhou until it closed down during Covid. He currently produces strawberries in rural Zhejiang province and expects to lose at least the same amount after illness ruined 40% of his harvest. After a disastrous effort at financial blogging, the 30-year-old chose to go to the countryside, where he acquired an interest in fruit.

Fellow bloggers have promised angel financing for Gong, who wants to improve the flavour, quality, and pricing of 20 different varieties of fruit. Gong is devoted to seeing the plan through, but he is feeling alone, especially because his parents are dissatisfied with his decision.

“My dad’s family worked as farmers their entire lives,” Gong went on to say.

“Their one wish is for their children to have a different life and wonder why they put me through school for so many years if I just go back to farming.” For decades, individuals like Gong’s parents went to cities to work, accelerating China’s fast development.

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However, as the world’s second-largest economy weakens, young people are facing the burden of an unemployment crisis that has left one in every five unemployed. Families that invested in college educations for their children with the goal of a middle-class existence are now seeing their dreams fade. In 2022, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen all had their first population drops on record.

“Back when I graduated in 2014, even an average student such as myself, without experience, could get multiple offers and find work at a good company,” Gong said.

“It’s something that was given to me by the times, and unimaginable now.”

Rural China is now one area where youth may find refuge. President Xi Jinping, who has long urged young people to assist “revitalize the countryside,” has ramped up such appeals in recent months, and Guangdong province announced a trial plan in May to enrol 300,000 graduates in rural areas by 2025. Two-year public service postings, agricultural internships, and incubator programmes to help nurture company ideas are among the options.

“We understand that a young person is the biggest investment of a family, even bigger than property,” Du Peng, vice-president of Renmin University in Beijing and an adviser to the Civil Affairs Ministry, said earlier this year at a seminar.

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“It takes 20 years or more to raise a child, so their employment has a direct impact on the entire family.” That is why the government prioritises young employment.” Given the magnitude of the economic crisis, concentrating on rural jobs is unlikely to ease the situation of China’s youth.

According to Bloomberg Economics, GDP growth will be cut in half in the decade after the Covid epidemic, from 8% to 4% per year. Households are concerned about their future because of falling property prices, and diminishing confidence has led to a historic low in foreign direct investment.

Moving graduates away from cities where technical advancements are generated risks hurting development further, while reducing urbanization would lower demand for new housing, which is a big contributor to the economy. Some saw Xi’s rural campaign as a political maneuver to prevent youth animosity from bursting again, following last year’s public protests over Covid lockdowns. 

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