At a meeting in July 2018, the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo analyzed the current economic situation and proposed stabilizing employment, finance, foreign trade, and investment to tackle external changes and ensure stable economic operations effectively. Within that list, the Politburo ranked “stabilizing employment” as the first and most important task. In addition, the report of the 19th National Congress of the CCP also stated that employment is pivotal to people’s well-being, noting that instability in employment will affect the standard of living and may ultimately affect social stability.
From this perspective, stabilizing employment is tantamount to safeguarding social stability from economic risk. China’s employment situation is generally stable and improving, but there are changes and difficulties in maintaining stability, Zhang Yizhen, vice minister of human resources and social security, said at a regular policy briefing of the State Council on December 5. The Hong Kong media said that the rare use of the phrase “difficulties in maintaining stability” was a grim omen for China’s employment situation.
The reality confirms the grim employment situation in China. The internet industry is experiencing a downturn at the moment. Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (often collectively referred to as BAT), China’s internet giants, are a desirable place for job seekers. But since September, the news of Alibaba scaling back its campus recruitment program has caused an uproar on the internet. At the same time, news spread that Baidu and JD.com have stopped social recruitment and that Tencent will lay off about 6,000 of its staff.
During his George W. Bush’s first term, I remember a news item where he told then-Chinese President Hu Jintao that if the economy didn’t produce at least four million jobs, he wouldn’t win reelection. Hu replied that he had to deliver 25 million jobs each year to avoid unrest.