Graduates Face “Hardest Job-Hunting Season” Ever

A sputtering economy has left China’s seven million college graduates with bleak job prospects, according to Andrew Jacobs and Sue-Lin Wong of The New York Times:

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.

The Chinese government is worried, saying that the problem could affect social stability, and it has ordered schools, government agencies and state-owned enterprises to hire more graduates at least temporarily to help relieve joblessness. “The only thing that worries them more than an unemployed low-skilled person is an unemployed educated person,” said Shang-Jin Wei, a Columbia Business School economist.

Lu Mai, the secretary general of the elite, government-backed China Development Research Foundation, acknowledged in a speech this month that less than half of this year’s graduates had found jobs so far. [Source]

The piece adds that even those who were lucky enough to find jobs over the winter are now seeing their prospective employers renege on their offers. The Atlantic’s Lotus Yuen writes that “the term ‘hardest job-hunting season in history’ has become a buzzword in China recently”:

This intimidating number is inextricably tied with discussion of another pressing issue: the employment rate of college graduates. The latest statistics released by Beijing Municipal Commission of Education show that only 33.6 percent of college graduates in Beijing have signed employment contracts, up 5 percent from April. Meanwhile, a recent report by Tecent-Mycos reveals that college graduates face gloomy employment prospects.

“I just can’t figure out why it’s so hard to get a job this year,” said Miranda Zhang, who is graduating from a university in Beijing. “I feel desperate –campus recruitment is competitive, with dozens of people competing for one position, while HR offices out in the real world usually disregard graduating students because we do not have any prior work experience.” [Source]

One CCTV reporter called the latest figures “alarming,” but Forbes contributor Gordon Chang thinks that unemployment runs deeper than the official statistics indicate:

[...]The semi-official Global Times reports that one of China’s hottest businesses at the moment is the forging of employment contracts for students.  Some universities, concerned about the withdrawal of funding due to high unemployment of their grads, will not hand out diplomas before students supply evidence of imminent employment.  The fake contracts, of course, inflate the statistics reported to—and eventually the figures issued by—central educational authorities. [Source]

Still, the problem may reach beyond slow economic growth. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz visited a job fair in Shanghai, where HR managers look for college graduates to fill entry-level positions across a wide-range of industries, and observed that “neither group is interested in each other:”

Nicole Li is looking to hire college graduates for her property management company. “We need technicians to fix software problems, but college grads don’t have these skills,” says Li, frowning. “We need people for exhibitions who can do presentations in English, but they can’t do that, either.”

Li needs to hire people for 60 high-skilled jobs. She says among the thousands of candidates here today, she’ll be lucky if she finds one.

Tong Huiqin comes to this job fair every Friday. He graduated from the Shanghai Finance University six years ago. Since then, he’s jumped from one job to the next. “It isn’t hard to find a job,” says Tong. “It’s hard to find the right job.”

He’s worked as a supervisor for a bunch of companies, but hasn’t found the right fit. “You could have five hundred graduates and five hundred job openings here, and none of them would match up,” he says. [Source]