Why No One Believes China's Unemployment Rate

china factory

Photo: Guang Niu/Getty Images

China’ unemployment rate is said to be 6.5% at present — a fairly impressive number, perhaps.Or maybe not. NPR’s Planet Money has a great segment today that looks at the scepticism surrounding the figure. The critics aren’t kind.

“The unemployment rate in China is one of the most useless and ridiculous statistics out there,” says macroeconomic researcher Arthur Kroeber, with Dragonomics. “No one pays any attention to it, because everyone knows it’s a complete fiction.”

The country’s method of counting simply isn’t considered sophisticated, and has many gaping holes — most stemming from the large size and mobility of its labour force.

The CIA, for example, has noted that China doesn’t include migrant workers in their figures . An unemployment figure of 4% jumps to 9% when you do so, the CIA says. Even that may be a kind figure. Some experts even estimated a figure as high as 19% or 33% in 2009, according to the Beijing Review.

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