China's Jobless College Graduates

China produces an enormous number of college graduates every year, and after graduation these young people are having a hard time finding their niche in the job market. Many of these under or unemployed recent graduates are forced to join the the ranks of the “ant-tribe,” cramming into impoverished and often underground living spaces. Though the ratio of job acquisition amongst new graduates has gone up (from 68% in 2009 to 72% in 2010), Beijing has deemed this a problem worth addressing. China Daily reports:

The Ministry of Education urged universities around the country to enroll fewer students in programs that usually lead to low employment.

Student intake in these unpopular courses will be downsized, even the programs canceled altogether, if less than 60 percent graduating in these subjects in two successive years failed to find work, said the ministry.

This is the latest move of the ministry in ensuring employment for university graduates, whose number will reach 6.8 million in 2012, an increase of 200,000 since the current year.

The Wall Street Journal points to disapproval from those who see this initiative as contradictory to China’s goal of becoming an innovator in science and technology:

Many university professors in China are unhappy with the Ministry of Education’s move, as it will likely shrink the talent pool needed for various subjects, such as biology, that are critical to the country’s aim of becoming a leader in science and technology but do not currently have a strong market demand […]

[…] Education has become a heated topic in China, as the country looks to propel the rise of its own companies and its own technologies. To succeed in that quest, the government has said, the country must produce more innovators.

However, one reason for the abundance of unemployed youth is that, while China’s college students are being academically trained, the job market is not yet demanding post-secondary education. The University World News explains that the structure of Chinese society still favors the skilled laborer over the academically trained:

[…] economists point to much deeper structural problems, particularly the significant size of China’s manufacturing sector compared to its service sector – the main employment area for graduates.

According to education and labour market expert Mao Shu-chao, a former vice-president of the Shanghai Education Research Institute, the 2.5 million white-collar jobs generated by the Chinese economy each year is not enough to absorb the 6.3 million graduates produced by the countries’ universities annually.

He has said skilled migrant workers without degrees, in comparison to graduates, have almost 97% employment, and has been advocating for a greater focus on vocational education rather than university degrees, particularly for students outside the biggest towns


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