Here’s some disturbing facts. Another 7 million are about to graduate from universities in China. Ten years ago they had 2 million grads a year. This is a big thing. Except, many of these new graduates aren’t going to find jobs, or will find jobs that they are way over-qualified for.
Businesses say they are swamped with job applications but have few positions to offer as economic growth has begun to falter. Twitter-like microblogging sites in China are full of laments from graduates with dim prospects.
Graduating seniors at all but a few of China’s top universities say that very few people they know are finding jobs — and that those who did receive offers over the winter were seeing them rescinded as the economy has weakened in recent weeks.
A national survey released last winter found that in the age bracket of 21- to 25-year-olds, 16 percent of the men and women with college degrees were unemployed.
But only 4 percent of those with an elementary school education were unemployed, a sign of voracious corporate demand persisting for blue-collar workers. Wages for workers who have come in from rural areas to urban factories have surged 70 percent in the last four years; wages for young people in white-collar sectors have barely stayed steady or have even declined.
Relatively slow growth is still creating enough jobs to provide full employment for the country’s blue-collar workers. But much faster growth may be needed to create white-collar jobs for the graduates pouring out of universities.
One response, endorsed by the State Council, is to urge more graduates to take jobs at small, private companies. But a generation of people who grew up under the government’s “one child” policy has proved risk-averse and slow to join or set up new companies.
Chinese students have been gravitating toward majors that are perceived as academically less demanding but likely to lead to careers in banking. Business administration and economics majors have proliferated, partly because the country’s many new private universities find them inexpensive subjects to teach. Programs in engineering and other sciences, with their requirements for costly labs, have grown more slowly.
As in the West in recent years, financial services is an extremely popular field among college graduates, who besiege banks, brokerage firms and other businesses in the sector with job applications. Ministry of Human Resources statistics show that average pay for banking sector employees, at $14,500 a year, is twice the level of pay in sectors like health care and education.
Graduates from the best universities still have a strong chance of finding a job, particularly if they do not set their sights too high. Lin Yinbi, a senior graduating in trade and economics from the prestigious Renmin University in Beijing, said that he had job offers from a heating company and a supermarket chain, but was still applying for a well-paid bank job.
Wang Zhian, a prominent Chinese broadcaster whose microblog has more than 200,000 followers, created a stir this spring by recommending that college graduates take jobs packing and unpacking homes for moving companies.
So, plenty of jobs still for factory works and janitors and waiters. But everyone wants to work in a bank. An educated middle class with high rates of unemployment is probably not going to sit around idly waiting for things to get better. And if there’s one thing the Chinese government fears more than anything else, it’s social instability.