China's Mass Unemployment Wave Begins: Six Million Workers To Get Pink Slips

Tyler Durden's picture


Back in November, just as the world's attention was focusing on China for long-overdue reasons including a slowing economy, debt at well over 300% of GDP, an artificially high exchange rate whose devaluation is causing market shockwaves around the globe, a reflating housing bubble, a burst stock market bubble and non-performing loans, as high as 20%, when we pointed out the one "most under-reported" risk virtually nobody was talking about: Chinese employment.

... one risk, perhaps the biggest one, which has so far flown deep under the radar, is also the biggest one - which may explain why so few have noticed it - namely social discontent, resulting from a breakdown in recent "agreeable" labor conditions, wage cuts and rising unemployment, leading to labor strikes and in some cases, violence.

We then pointed out a disturbing indicator: the number of labor strikes in China, as a result of deteriorating labor conditions, sliding wages and surging unemployment, had become exponential.


Since then the media's attention did shift to this biggest, if no longer-underreported risk if not in the international arena then certainly to the domestic "growth" story: the imminent surge in unemployment as China's slowing economy is finally "passed down" to the worker level.

We received the first evidence overnight, when in the Markit report confirming China PMI deteriorating manufacturing, it also noted that "staff numbers declined at the sharpest rate since January 2009 during February. Companies that recorded lower headcounts widely commented on company downsizing policies as part of cost-cutting initiatives, along with the non-replacement of voluntary leavers. Despite lower employment, manufacturers were able to work through outstanding business during February. Though marginal, it was the first reduction in the level of work-in-hand since April 2015."

In other words, a labor bloodbath.

Today, Reuters finally peels away the first layer of just how bad China's mass layoff wave will be when it reports that China aims to lay off 5-6 million state workers over the next two to three years as part of efforts to curb industrial overcapacity and pollution.

This admission, the first of many, will cost China.

As Reuters adds, "China's leadership, obsessed with maintaining stability and making sure redundancies do not lead to unrest, will spend nearly 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) to cover layoffs in just the coal and steel sectors in the next 2-3 years."

That number, coming from the government, is laughably lower that what our own estimate of how much it would cost China to preserve the peace, a number which will likely be in the CNY11+ trillion range.

Needless to say, the overall figure is likely to rise as closures spread to other industries and even more funding will be required to handle the debt left behind by "zombie" state firms.

The term refers to companies that have shut down some of their operations but keep staff on their rolls since local governments are worried about the social and economic impact of bankruptcies and unemployment. Shutting down "zombie firms" has been identified as one of the government's priorities this year, with China's Premier Li Keqiang promising in December that they would soon "go under the knife".

As forecast here all throughout 2015, it was just a matter of time before China had no choice but to unleash the mass pink slips, and that is about to happen: "the government plans to lay off five million workers in industries suffering from a supply glut, one source with ties to the leadership said."

A second source with leadership ties put the number of layoffs at six million. Both sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media about the politically sensitive subject for fear of sparking social unrest.

Putting this number in context, the hugely inefficient state sector employed around 37 million people in 2013 and accounts for about 40 percent of the country's industrial output and nearly half of its bank lending.

According to Reuters, this would be China's most significant nationwide retrenchment since the restructuring of state-owned enterprises from 1998 to 2003 led to around 28 million redundancies and cost the central government about 73.1 billion yuan ($11.2 billion) in resettlement funds.

There are two big problems with this low-balled estimate. The first is that as China aims to cut capacity gluts in as many as seven sectors, including cement, glassmaking and shipbuilding, the downstream labor effects will be massive, and they will impact not only the public sector but all the countless workers in the private sector that service them.

According to some of the more bearish sellside estimates, as many as 20-30 million workers in both the public and private sectors will lose their jobs as a result of the massive overcapacity retrenchment that China will undergo in decades. Even that number may be a low estimate if the worst case scenarios about Chinese bad loans materializes.

The second problem is more nuanced.

The Ministry of Finance said in January it would also collect 46 billion yuan from surcharges on coal-fired power over the coming three years in order to resettle workers. In addition, an assortment of local government matching funds will also be made available.

However, the funds currently being offered will do little to resolve the problems of debts held by zombie firms, which could overwhelm local banks if they are not handled correctly.

"They have proposed this dedicated fund only to pay the workers, but there is no money for the bad debts, and if the bad debts are too big the banks will have problems and there will be panic," said Xu Zhongbo, head of Beijing Metal Consulting, who advises Chinese steel mills.

In other words, China is about to unleash a war on two fronts resulting from its slowing economy, one dealing with soaring NPLs, which as a reminder is the basis of Kyle Bass' bearish thesis on China and why he and many others think China will need massive devaluation in the coming year; the second will be dealing with the social fallout from the imminent mass layoff wave.

How any of this will happen is not clear:

Factories shut down would have to repay bank loans to avoid saddling state banks with a mountain of non-performing loans, the sources said. "Triangular debt", or money owed by firms to other enterprises, would also have to be resolved, they added.


Although China has promised to help local banks transfer the bad debts of zombie steel mills to asset management firms, local governments are not expected to gain access to the worker lay-off funds until the zombie firms have actually been shut down and debt issues settled.

As for the 150 billion yuan earmarked to provide "social unemployment insurance", one thing is certain - almost none if any of these funds designed to appears the newly unemployed, will actually reach the broader population.

Ultimately, Beijing's attempt to centrally plan a transition into a regime with "unemployment claims" will fail, unleashing what China's riot police has been preparing for ever since 2014, something we profiled in "Chinese riot police train for a "working class insurrection."

Consider the photos below a preview of what China is about to unleash domestically as it begins handing out the mass pink slips.

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Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:47 | 7256823 Father Thyme
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The Fists of Righteous Harmony!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:49 | 7256843 nuubee
nuubee's picture

Where is Zorg when you need him, he'll fire 12 million.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:59 | 7256901 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Fear mongering is escalating...a blow off top nears perhaps?

A good time to try somethiing new, perhaps?


Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:02 | 7256916 JRobby
JRobby's picture

They should move to North Korea and just toss their hats on to that fat little psychopath. He will be squished.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:13 | 7256950 boink.voink
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Instead of worrying about China, Americans should worry about themselves. With a 25% unemployment and with nothing to show for it's manufacturing except guns and tanks. Even its servce sector can be summarised in a FANG. China has already integrated the Eurasian hemisphere and they have a huge domestic market with a socialist government in power who works with impunity, so they can easily manage this downturn, but what will happen to America when its chickens come home to roost.

You are looking into a massive civil war breaking out in USA with every state for itself. Grumpy and Hitlary are widening the rifts for the same, KKK and BLM are not chinese groups, this is happening in America. Grump endorses KKK and Hitlery takes sides with blacks and migrants and you fools are busy speculating about China. As if looking at their problems makes USA's problems smaller. You can't even see you are being set up for a race war.

They are million times bigger for USA. Once the dollar goes all hell is breaking loose in the so called land of the free. Each and everyone will have to pay for the millions of murders and rapes that Americans have allowed to be perpetrated in the name of democracy and revolutions.


Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:23 | 7257008 CheapBastard
CheapBastard's picture

Well, at least the Democrats, Obama and Pelosi gave Americans Obamacare:


People in Texas are significantly more likely than adults nationwide to report that it has gotten harder to see a doctor in the past two years.

"Frankly, it's a mess," Carlo says. "We just see this so frequently where a patient comes in, they're carrying a health plan card, it looks good, they double-check and when they go to file the claim to be reimbursed they find out they're not in the network."

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 14:12 | 7257364 The9thDoctor
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Foxconn is replacing slave labor for robots so many more Chinese will get the pink slip.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 14:37 | 7257466 Never One Roach
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8 snapshots from China's rise to the top of the billionaire club

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 14:14 | 7257372 LowerSlowerDela...
LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD's picture

And if Carlo said it (true what he/she said) it is totally raycissss to say otherwise.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:38 | 7257127 Antifaschistische
Antifaschistische's picture

So.....because the US has problems we should never discuss issues elsewhere in the world?   China is relevant for the US also.   And China will NOT easily deal with their issues.  It will be a painful process for them....however, I will give you this...Chinese people are much more prepared for managing pain than Americans are.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 15:17 | 7257639 boink.voink
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All I am saying is, "Those living in a glass house, should not throw stones at others."

This was aimed at the author of the article and those buying the recent China doom rhetoric, as if the west is living in paradise.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 14:11 | 7257353 Mr. Universe
Mr. Universe's picture

While I agree somewhat with your views, you lose me with

Each and everyone will have to pay for the millions of murders and rapes that Americans have allowed to be perpetrated in the name of democracy and revolutions.

I can't even vote to stop the murder of the unborn on our own soil let alone what the Corporatocracy decides they want to do. They really will only capitulate to superior force, which at this point they possess. With all the lies, propaganda, and indoctrination in the schools, most Americans have no idea what is going on. 

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 15:31 | 7257687 boink.voink
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I agree to disagree, those perpetuating bloodshed are definitely guilty, but so are those who are standing by and doing nothing to stop it, instead they are busy ignoring and enjoying their lives while millions of men, women and children are mamed. They are as guilty as anyone else. Atleast BRICS are trying to stop the BS, instead Americans are still flocking to their new shepherd Grumpy and Hitlery, both of whom promise MOAR WAR and no American gets and questions them.

Grump has promised we will bomb the hell out of Daesh and everyone goes YAYYYY !!! what a bunch of retards

Sat, 03/19/2016 - 03:09 | 7334315 webdesignvalleys
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It is the same thing when I try to apply for the product of herpes cure 2017 and other things with this.

Fri, 04/01/2016 - 05:06 | 7389580 webdesignvalleys
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It seems to be weird that I can check to see what does my name mean about this case.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:56 | 7256876 Syrin
Syrin's picture

Disney and Miscrosoft are already looking to hire them.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:21 | 7257001 de3de8
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And Donald will not be of much help

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:45 | 7257180 Syrin
Syrin's picture

Hillary appreciates your support.

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 07:43 | 7375618 webdesignvalleys
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It is real cool when people can check and see the right one.


Anna @ star wars t shirts

Thu, 03/31/2016 - 21:51 | 7388920 webdesignvalleys
webdesignvalleys's picture

It is real good if people can do something like suggestion for solution.



Manna @ nightmare before christmas hoodie and nightmare before christmas costumes

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:47 | 7256827 KesselRunin12Parsecs
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Maybe there are a few openings over at FOXCONN to become a slave for Apple

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:58 | 7256892 silverer
silverer's picture

It's a cheerful "splash" page you land on.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:59 | 7256902 KesselRunin12Parsecs
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It's your duty... To shake your booty... (jus doin' my job)

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:48 | 7256828 LawsofPhysics
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It's okay, they will get free housing in any one of a number of "ghost" cities, hence the GDP will actually grow....

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:49 | 7256844 KnuckleDragger-X
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Just like Kudzu....

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:48 | 7256829 Deus Irate
Deus Irate's picture

I'll say it again: China is checking out of the Ponzi Hotel. They will feel a lot of pain as they go, but the grass is so much greener on their side of the road. 10 years and they will rule the world if they can slip free of the global bankster cartel.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:49 | 7256841 Hitlery_4_Dictator
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Coming to a Country near you, I hope

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:34 | 7257092 Deus Irate
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"... when they were set upon twice by 'a group of young African masked men'."

Were they wooden African masks? Wonder if the fellas behind them masks were dark, swarthy or pasty? Might have been a better choice to wear balaclavas, but there is no accounting for taste.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 14:48 | 7257520 peddling-fiction
peddling-fiction's picture

That seems to be deep state sending in goons.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:51 | 7256854 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Good luck to them!  Paper money was invented by the Chinese and their leadership has no tolerance for "revolutions".   they are ambitious, however, wake me when they actually back their currency with PMs and stop devaluing the fuck out of it...

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:51 | 7256857 E.F. Mutton
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You may be onto something.  The U.S. doesn't think past the next quarter - maybe they are playing the long game.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:48 | 7256832 KnuckleDragger-X
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And China just finished changing out the generals commanding their 'security' forces to more dependable leadership, perfect timing......

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:27 | 7257049 CheapBastard
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China is sure a place of contrasts; On the one hand you have Billionaire communist gubmint officials buying multi-million dollar McMansions in Hongcouver, SF, Sydney and so on ... and then you have the billion or so of poor peasants who are still struggling to eat twice a day.


Something may crack over there as in the rest of the world which seems spinning into more and more chaos with global piss-poor leadership and moar wars.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:45 | 7257178 KnuckleDragger-X
KnuckleDragger-X's picture

We're approaching an entropic break-point and everybody at the top seems determined to push it farther on the assumption that they can control the avalanche and stop the tides.....

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:48 | 7256834 Vlad the Inhaler
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I wonder if they will turn towards socialism and fascism now.  Oh wait...

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:49 | 7256836 Goldbugger
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Look out for the FANG BAO.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:49 | 7256842 Soul Glow
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Moar plastic rice!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:52 | 7256861 Atomizer
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Catch the voter fraud on video. TX. 

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:53 | 7256867 starman
starman's picture

I got an idea! Extend the fucking great wall!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:00 | 7256905 fockewulf190
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...and get the Mongolians to pay for it!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:29 | 7257065 CheapBastard
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... or the Mexicans.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:56 | 7256880 Full Nelson
Full Nelson's picture

6 million?

Quickly, someone at NRO write and print a Holocaust comparison!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:57 | 7256881 silverer
silverer's picture

Sure wish they'd lay off six million government workers in the US.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:58 | 7256896 DaveA
DaveA's picture

Q: Some nations have enough capital to industrialize but not enough to support a welfare state. What happens when industry slows down and millions of workers lose their jobs?

A: Watch China and find out!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 12:58 | 7256897 PerkyPooper
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Those are the weirdest solar panels i have ever seen!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:02 | 7256915 Falconsixone
Falconsixone's picture

I'm sure the prc army will put them to work since there are no jobs. War solves the powers problems. Just crash a plane and wave the flag when you need to destroy the youth.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:32 | 7257078 CheapBastard
CheapBastard's picture

They already have a plan:


1) control all media;

2) block 90% of the internet.



Why do you thnk everyone wants out of there.

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:03 | 7256918 SoDamnMad
SoDamnMad's picture

If a guy with a sledge hammer  ran at me to hit my shield, one .40 would drop him in his tracks. OK  Whose next?

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 13:19 | 7256993 Pumpkin
Pumpkin's picture

Those 5,999,999 guys is who's next.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!