China’s record-high number of grads struggle to secure jobs

 

Job hunters take part in a job fair at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics in

Tianjin, north China, on April 10, 2013.   Photo by Liu Dongyue

 

By Ma Tianyun and Qiu Yi

With lower college graduate employment rates being reported in many provincial regions, job hunting has become an uphill battle as the year’s graduate supply is expected to hit a record high.

The latest statistics from the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (SMEC) show that only 44.4 percent of the city’s university graduates had signed employment contracts by May 10, down 2 percentage points year on year.

Meanwhile, the drop was greater for bachelors than for masters, with graduates from vocational colleges inching up 1.2 percent.

Li Ruiyang, deputy chief of the SMEC, said the peak job-hunting season normally lasts from April to June, and the final employment rate of the university graduates in Shanghai has stayed above 95 percent in the past few years.

The silver lining is that the declines have contracted with the approach of graduation day in June, Li said.

On April 10, the proportion registered a year-on-year dip of 4.07 percent. On April 25, it narrowed to 3.17 percent.

Like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong have both reported declines in the proportion of university students with signed job contracts.

Luo Weiqi, director of the Guangdong Provincial Education Bureau, said that local employment situations were even worse than in 2008, when the subprime mortgage crisis dealt a sudden blow to the Chinese economy.

Only 30 percent of university graduates in Guangdong had signed employment contracts by April 1, down 10 percentage points from the same period of last year.

The Beijing Human Resources and Social Security Bureau also revealed mounting employment pressure. Only 28.24 percent of university graduates in Beijing had been hired by April 19.

By June, some 6.99 million students will graduate from vocational colleges and universities, up 190,000 year on year and a record high since 1949, according to the Ministry of Education.

Sources with the Shanghai Education Authority attributed the grim situation to shrinking demand brought on by the economic slowdown and restructuring, the divergence between supply and demand and an increasingly diversified employment mentality.

Wang Sheping, the supervisor of the SMEC’s Students Affairs Department, said that of the municipality’s total 178,000 graduates, approximately 130,000 people hope to find employment.

The city’s job openings were estimated at 150,000, but salaries have been a very important consideration for graduates, Wang said.

 

STRONGER-THAN-EVER EMPLOYMENT PROMOTION

Faced with the record-high supplies, Chinese governments have made greater-than-ever efforts to boost employment.

The Shanghai education authority, for instance, is considering an experimental program to encourage university graduates to engage in social services, but detailed incentives have yet to be released.

In northern China’s Hebei Province, graduates who opt to start their own businesses will receive government subsidies. Graduates opening small businesses are eligible to enjoy preferential treatment in loans and social security outlays.

The Ministry of Education has also issued an order to ban employment discrimination based on gender, household registration and educational background.

The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regional Government announced that it would offer a monthly subsidy of 2,700 yuan (439.12 U.S. dollars) per person to 2,500 graduates who majored in agriculture, husbandry, forestry and water resources and are willing to work in rural areas for two years.

At the end of their service, the regional government may offer them preferential admittance into the civil service or they may enjoy a 10-point bonus in the entrance exam for postgraduates.

In a gesture to boost employment, Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited a human resources development and promotion center and a vocational school in Tianjin over the past two days.

He said that employment is a worldwide problem, but one that is vital to people’s livelihood.

The issue must be addressed from an overall perspective. A fundamental way to boost employment is to expand the economy, he noted, adding that the greater the Chinese economy is, the better the job market.

China’s economy expanded by 7.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, lower than the 7.9 percent seen during the same period of last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The year’s economic growth target is 7.5 percent, while the increase in new jobs is projected at 9 million, with the registered unemployment rate for urban and township dwellers set below 4.6 percent.

 

STRUCTURAL CHALLENGE

Luo Xiaochuan, an official with the Hebei Provincial Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, thinks the current employment problem is structural.

“Graduates are jockeying for a position in big cities and towns, expecting good opportunities, while employers in less-developed regions fail to recruit who they want,” said Luo.

Citing a survey in Hebei, he said that science and engineering majors are more welcome in the job market than arts majors.

About 63 percent of science and engineering grads have landed a job so far, standing in sharp contrast to 20 percent of arts and economics majors.

Moreover, gender preference also exists among employers, as 70 percent of the surveyed companies prefer to recruit male employees.

About 63 percent of female graduates polled said they felt more stressed than their male classmates, according to Luo.

Meng Yanjun, a staff member in charge of admission and employment with the Hebei College of Industry and Technology, sees the changing preferences of the younger generations as an obstacle to their employment.

“Graduates born in the 1990s care more about working environment and welfare. They are very particular about wages and the nature of work,” Meng said.

 

 

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping  talks with job seekers at the China HR Development &

Promotion Center (Tianjin) in north China’s Tianjin Municipality.  Xi Jinping made an

inspection tour to Tianjin from May 14 to 15. Photo by Lan Hongguang

 

Xi stresses down-to-earth spirit

amid tough employment situation

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged college students to be ambitious as well as down-to-earth in their job hunts.

Xi made the call while visiting a vocational training center during a two-day inspection tour to Tianjin Municipality that ended on Wednesday of May 15.

While talking with representatives of college graduates, the unemployed and rural surplus labor force at the China Tianjin Public Vocational Training Center, he asked college students not to shy away from working at the grassroots level and in tough places and urged them to issue extraordinary performances in ordinary job situations.

Meanwhile, Xi stressed finding employment for the youth, especially college graduates, and poor urbanites, veterans and migrant workers. He also urged authorities to make efforts to provide sound vocational training and improve the employment service system in an effort to ease structural unemployment.

Xi also required relevant authorities to assist college graduates who start their own businesses as well as those who have difficulty finding jobs.

The president also visited the China HR Development & Promotion Center (Tianjin), and talked with job seekers on site.

China will see a record-high 6.99 million people graduate from college this year, up 2.8 percent year on year, according to official figures.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at a recent meeting that China faces a tough employment situation due to the tempered economic growth in the past few months of this year.

 

 

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