China’s labor force shrank by 20.1% in the latest survey, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Friday, as the country grapples with a sharp rise in migrant workers.
The labor force is the combined number of people working and the number who are out of work.
The NBS said it had not published the official data but cited the International Labour Organization (ILO) as saying it could be as high as 20%.
The ILO’s latest estimate shows China’s economy contracted 6.7% in 2016, and the latest labor force survey suggests the number of unemployed in the country may be closer to 20.5 million.
The latest estimate suggests China’s unemployment rate could reach 15.7%, the highest in the world, with more than 30 million people living on less than $2 a day.
More than half the country’s unemployed are under 35, the highest age group.
Chinese officials have warned that the influx of migrant workers will lead to rising inequality and instability in the labor market.