“I’ve had one, two, three, four… five jobs in the last few months,” says Joy Zhang, a 23-year-old graduate.

She counts them on her fingers as she walks through a line of stalls at a local food market in Chengdu, a city in south-west China’s Sichuan province.

“The fact is there are lots of jobs, the problem is whether you are willing to lower your expectations,” she adds, before turning to negotiate a price for snow pea shoots.

Joy’s experience is not unusual in today’s China, where there are more graduates than employers that need them. Out of her class of 32, only around a third have found full-time jobs since graduating in the summer.

More than one in five people between the ages of 16 and 24 are jobless in China, according to official data from August 2023. The government has not released youth unemployment figures since then.