China's youth unemployment is so dire that it's inspired recent college grads to post pictures of themselves sprawled on the ground in 'zombie-style' poses

Fresh college graduates in China are taking photos of themselves in slumped poses.
Fresh college graduates in China are taking photos of themselves in slumped poses.Zongxuandiyibudinggou/Yueliangshuile/Xiaohongshu
  • Graduating college students in China are posting photos of themselves "lying flat."

  • Some are posting photos of themselves slumped on benches and even sprawled on the ground — "zombie-style."

  • China's youth unemployment rate hit a record high of 20.8% in May.

A legion of 20-something Chinese youth rejecting and quietly defying the rat race sparked the "lying flat" or tangping social movement that went viral in 2021.

Now, recently graduated Chinese students facing a harsh job search this year are continuing to reject the hustle culture — they are marking their new phase in life with photos of themselves in defeatist poses.

Some in the recent graduating cohort posted photos of themselves lying flat or slumped on benches and chairs and even sprawled on the ground. The pose is hashtagged "zombie-style" on Chinese social media platforms including Xiaohongshu, China's answer to Instagram.

On June 13, the Radii media outlet tweeted a photo collage of some of these graduating students donning black or purple graduation gowns in various poses.

One image appears to show a student partially lying on a sidewalk in a black graduation gown. A graduation cap has been placed on her face.


While this particular pose is trending this year, this graduation season's posts were often accompanied by other happier pictures of the graduating students. It also isn't the first time graduates in China have taken unusual graduation photos, according to posts seen by Insider on Xiaohongshu.

These trending poses of despondence come as China's youth unemployment rate hit a record high of 20.8% in May, according to official statistics. This means one out of five of those between 16 to 24 years old are out of work.

Chinese Gen Zers are facing a particularly tough time in the economy and job market after nearly three years of draconian COVID-zero restrictions battered the world's second-largest economy.

The country started relaxing its pandemic restrictions late last year and has fully exited its lockdowns. But China's post-lockdown economic growth has been disappointing after an initial spurt.

In May, China's industrial output grew 3.5% from a year ago — slowing from a 5.6% growth in April and below the 3.6% increase. Meanwhile, retail sales growth also slowed from 18.4% in April to 12.7% in May.

"The post-Covid recovery appears to have run its course, an economic double dip is nearly confirmed," economists at Nomura wrote in a June 16 note seen by Insider.

The youth unemployment rates in the country are so worrying that more than 7.7 million youths took exams to secure 200,000 jobs in China's government sector this year — considered to be "iron rice bowls" because of the stability and job security they bring — according to a CNBC analysis in March.

"Throughout the three years of the pandemic, my classmates were just stuck in the dormitory taking online courses, like being locked up in prison," Brenda Lu, a 21-year-old media and communications student, told the Washington Post in a report first published on Friday.

"So many people have had no social life for three years and are desperate to find a way out. This year's job search can only be described as particularly dismal," Lu, who shared a photo of herself lying on a bench with the Post, told the publication.

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