Graduates in China enter worst job market in decades

Jenny Bai was one of ten outstanding computer science students from several Chinese institutions who were chosen for a position by a Beijing-based online company after four rounds of taxing interviews.

However, the business informed the students last month that their contract offers had been withdrawn because of COVID-19 challenges and the wider economic downturn, which would affect a record 10.8 million Chinese university graduates this summer.

Bai, who graduated last month and chose not to mention the company to maintain good relations, said, “I’m frightened.” “I’m not sure what I’ll do if I can’t get a job.”

The Covid limitations in China have hurt a nation whose economy was already contracting because of the collapse of the real estate market, geopolitical tensions, and regulatory crackdowns on the tech, education, and other sectors.

At a time when young unemployment is already more than three times China’s general unemployment rate, at a record 18.4%, a cohort of graduates larger than the whole population of Portugal is poised to join one of China’s worst job markets in decades.

The effects of such high young unemployment on Chinese society are not predetermined.

In a year when President Xi Jinping is anticipated to win a record-breaking third term as leader, it is difficult for China’s stability-obsessed Communist Party that educated young people are struggling to find work. This is contrary to what they have come to expect following decades of fast growth.

According to Michael Pettis, a professor of finance at Peking University, “the social compact between the government and the public was you remain out of politics and we would promise that you’ll perform better than last year.”

“So the question is, what else needs to change if that assurance falls apart?”

According to Premier Li Keqiang, the government’s primary objective is to stabilize the employment market for recent graduates. Companies that provide internship positions to recent graduates will get subsidies in addition to other benefits designed to increase employment overall.

For graduates who want to start their own enterprises, several local governments have low-interest loans available. Some of the void in entry-level positions in the private sector is anticipated to be filled by state-backed businesses.

According to Rockee Zhang, Managing Director for Greater China at the recruiting agency Randstad, the entry-level employment market in China was much worse than it was during the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, with new positions declining by 20–30% from the previous year.

Zhang, a recruiter for 20 years, said, “This year is a low point, the lowest I’ve seen.”

Another employment company, Zhilian Zhaopin, claims that expected pay are also 6.2 percent lower.

Requests for response from China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and Ministry of Education went unanswered.

Many Chinese graduates have found employment in the computer sector, but according to recruiters, the sector is cutting back on hiring this year.

Many of China’s internet behemoths, notably Tencent and Alibaba, had to make significant employment losses as a result of a regulatory crackdown. Five IT industry sources told Reuters that tens of thousands of people had lost their employment overall in the sector this year. According to a research released in April by Shanghai-based Talent Assessment and Management Consulting business NormStar, job layoffs varied across China’s roughly 10 largest IT companies but averaged at about 10%.

A nine-month ban on new online gaming licenses due to violent material and other problems was removed in April, during which time 14,000 businesses in the sector had to close. Tens of thousands of workers left the private school industry, which attracted regulatory scrutiny as well. 60,000 layoffs have been announced by New Oriental, the largest company in the sector.

New hiring is hesitant. A human resources manager at a Tencent business unit claimed they were seeking to employ “a few dozen” fresh graduates, down from approximately 200 a year earlier and wanted to remain anonymous since they were not permitted to speak to the media.

According to Julia Zhu of the staffing company Robert Walters, “Internet firms have eliminated tons of jobs.” “They are now choosing more experienced individuals over recent grads if they have the financial means to do so.”

Jason Wang, a headhunter based in Beijing who had hitherto focused mostly on recruitment for tech businesses, is now doing most of his work for state-backed telecommunications companies.

Wang declared that the era of internet businesses’ recruiting binges was over.

Employers in China often disapprove of graduates who are jobless for a while after graduation. Instead of terrible luck with the economy, many families perceive it as an embarrassment.

According to government data, a record number of people are applying for post-graduate education in order to prevent large gaps in their CVs because doing blue-collar work after receiving a university degree is sometimes frowned upon.

Vicente Yu, who graduated in 2021, is currently jobless after losing his position at a media firm in late 2017. Rent and other essential costs in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou will be covered by his savings for another month or two.

The 21-year-old, who has been dealing with anxiety and sleep issues, added, “My dad said you should never return home again, he claimed he should have raised a dog instead of me.”

He spends his nights browsing social media sites to discover other young people in same circumstances.

I get some comfort in thinking about all the folks who, like me, were unable to obtain employment.

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