By Jacob Shapiro
Since 2002, China’s official unemployment rate has ranged from 4 percent to 4.3 percent.
That statement by itself should be unnerving. Such a steady unemployment rate would be anomalous even for a very stable economy. China, however, has seen its economy transform over the past 15 years. Explaining why the official numbers are so unreflective of this volatility is revealing of China’s economic and political challenges. It is also possible, based on recent studies and anecdotal evidence, to make a fairly substantiated guess that unemployment in China is roughly double the reported rate and is emerging as a major problem. China faces two main challenges when it comes to employment. The first is the short-term problem of lacking jobs, which will worsen in 2016, but which China has managed in the past. The longer-term issue is one of demographics. China’s workforce has shrunk for three consecutive years now. The bigger problem will not be fixing unemployment; it w