As this country lumbers into the Year of the Ox, a frisson of anxiety is rippling through a generation of Chinese who had grown up thinking that economic prosperity was guaranteed them. The great boom in urban middle-class wealth over the past decade and a half is slowing because of the global financial crisis, and the job market for college-educated Chinese, even those with degrees from top universities here and abroad, has tightened.
Here in China, the economic downturn hit the export industry first, and factories have been shutting down and putting migrant workers out on the street for months. Now, Chinese white-collar businesses are starting rounds of layoffs, slashing salaries and cutting the year-end bonuses that employees highly prize.
[…]The anxiety level of the ruling Communist Party, whose legitimacy is pegged to maintaining economic growth, is rising in lockstep with that of the frustrated workers and job seekers. On Monday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said at a cabinet meeting that “this year’s employment situation is very grave,” according to a government report. Earlier, the government ordered state-owned companies not to lay people off.
For more on the impact the 2008 financial crisis has had on students, see this CDT post.
Update: The Chinese government is beginning to take some steps to deal with this problem. From Reuters:
The Chinese government will help train 1 million unemployed university graduates over the next three years and will give loans to companies who hire them, state media said on Sunday, as the economic crisis starts to bite.
[…]Students loans will be waived either partially or in full for graduates willing to work in rural areas or join the armed forced, the report said.
The government will also offer loans of up to 2 million yuan ($292,400) to labor-intensive companies who recruit graduates, it added.
Meanwhile, migrant workers continue to bear the brunt of the economic crisis, and are not finding much reason to celebrate this New Year. From AFP:
Cheng would not normally return to his home village in central China’s Henan province until just a few days before the Lunar New Year, delaying his homecoming until the last moment in an effort to earn a little more money.
But this year he came back three months before the week-long holiday, which begins on Monday, after losing his job as a welder at a shipyard in the eastern city of Taizhou as foreign orders collapsed amid the global economic crisis.
“There is just no work there now,” he said.
Millions of people are similarly suffering in China as they spend the Lunar New Year — traditionally a time for family feasts, fireworks and fun — soberly contemplating how they will find work after the holiday.