Educated and Unemployed; Tough Economy, Glut of College Graduates Leave Few Jobs

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 30, 2009 | Go to article overview

Educated and Unemployed; Tough Economy, Glut of College Graduates Leave Few Jobs


Byline: Chris O'Brien, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BEIJING -- The Year of the Ox is said to symbolize prosperity through fortitude and toil. But, as China celebrates the Lunar New Year this week, millions of anxious college students are finding these qualities do not guarantee success in the country's contracting job market.

The chronic oversupply of graduates in an economy still reliant on low-end manufacturing has been a major concern for the Chinese middle class for the past few years.

Now, as the economic slowdown renders the country's employment situation grim, their chances of getting a dream job are receding as China's growth slows.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao says 6.1 million graduates expected to flood the job market in June are facing unprecedented competition. They will join 1.5 million graduates from the class of 2008 who are reportedly still jobless.

Their chances of landing a job are receding as China's growth slows. The growth rate for the final quarter of last year was just 6.8 percent, dragging the full-year number to 9 percent and ending a run of five consecutive years of double-digit growth.

Tales of underachievement and meager prospects are regular fixtures in Chinese newspapers.

Graduates terrified of being left on the shelf have been vying to work as nannies and cleaners for rich families in the southern province of Guangdong, the Guangzhou Daily reported.

And the official China Daily carried a survey by the Shanghai Education Press Group, which found that 86 percent of the 2,000 students it had interviewed had lowered their salary expectations, with most undergraduates considering a starting wage.

Students such as Annie Wang, 22, an English-interpreting major in her final year at the highly regarded Beijing Foreign Studies University, used to be snapped up.

I have applied for several trainee programs with international firms, but after some interviews, I failed. My dreams have turned to bubbles, she said. My university is a good one, and I am considered a relatively good student here, so I find myself in an embarrassing situation. Most of my friends and former schoolmates are no better off.

China's leaders are jittery about large-scale unemployment in its cities, regarding it as a serious challenge to social stability. Official statistics are playing down the problem, putting the urban unemployment rate at the end of 2008 at 4.2 percent.

However, this percentage does not factor in migrant workers or new college graduates. The more likely figure is 9.4 percent, says the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The Cabinet has pledged to make the employment of higher-education graduates a priority, and with the Chinese New Year, it announced a series of measures aimed at creating more job opportunities.

Graduates willing to work in the country's rural areas, in cities in the poorer western regions, or in the armed forces would be entitled to a full or partial waiver of their student loans.

Labor-intensive companies can take out loans of up to 2 million yuan (nearly $300,000) if they recruit graduates and graduates looking to set up their own business can access a loan of 50,000 yuan ($7,300). The government also said it would provide training for 1 million unemployed graduates over the next three years to improve their qualifications. …

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Educated and Unemployed; Tough Economy, Glut of College Graduates Leave Few Jobs
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