What is the real unemployment rate in China?


The Western world has long been frustrated by the lack of reliable government data on the Chinese economy, and there is no statistic less credible than the nation’s official unemployment rate.

As the Financial Times put it earlier this year, “China’s official unemployment statistics are the worst of a notoriously unreliable set,” pointing out that the unemployment rate has fluctuated between just 4% and 4.3% despite the fact that quarterly, year-over year growth has been as high as 14% and as low as 6%.

Everyone knows that the unemployment rate in China isn’t 4%, but nobody can agree on an alternate measure. This week, in a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Feng Shuaizhang of the Shangai University of Finance and Economics and Hu Yingyao and Robert Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University try their hand at estimating the real unemployment rate in China.

The results are…

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