Blogging and playing e-sports now count as jobs in China

People play video games at an Internet cafe in Wenzhou, China, on June 6, 2019.
People play video games at an Internet cafe in Wenzhou, China, on June 6, 2019.PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China has broadened the definition of a job to include more flexible forms of work for fresh graduates, as the government struggles with high unemployment due to the coronavirus downturn.

Graduates starting their own businesses, such as opening online shops, or taking freelance jobs, like bloggers and e-sports players, will now be classified as employed, according to a document by the education ministry dated June 29. The scope of employment also includes taking part in incubator programmes, poverty alleviation programmes, and being enlisted in the army.

People must work at least one paid hour a week to be counted as employed, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The ministry asked universities and colleges to adhere to the new rules when collating employment data and revise any existing incorrect data. False information would be severely punished, the ministry said, without specifying how.

The new rules echo comments made last month by a senior adviser to the government, who called for a more tolerant stance towards job forms and unemployment data.

"College students don't necessarily need to go to a work unit, more and more we are seeing they have many choices, including freelancing," said Tang Min, an economist and counsellor to the State Council. "They can open a Taobao store or engage in cross border e-commerce. They can start their own business with just a laptop and create a new job opportunity."

China has a record 8.74 million fresh graduates entering the job market this summer. That adds pressure to the already-bad labour situation, with millions of workers unemployed due to the coronavirus.

China's official surveyed unemployment rate was 5.9 per cent in May after jumping to a record high 6.2 per cent in February due to the virus. The government is targeting "around 6 per cent" for this year, but the calculation is flawed as it doesn't count many migrant workers from the countryside.

The Chinese government has already rolled out a slew of measures to try keep the official tallies of jobless low, including encouraging students to remain at universities for postgraduate study, allowing some vocational graduates to further pursue studies, and also increasing recruitment for certain roles such as teachers in rural regions.