Chinese university graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to land a job. China has more than doubled university enrollment during this decade, and educated job seekers are entering the labor force at a record rate. The government's goal was to provide more skilled workers for the rapidly growing economy. However, for more than half of this year's crop of university graduates -- about five million young men and women -- unemployment is the main prospect. Sam Beattie reports for VOA from Beijing.
Months before graduation, Beijing university students are already heading to job fairs, to start applying for positions and to gain valuable experience in the job-hunting process.
An estimated 100,000 positions will be offered at job fairs in Beijing this month, but there are many more students chasing those opportunities. Competition is fierce.
Li Yan has no brothers or sisters. She is a typical product of China's one-child policy. She speaks for many. "My family has given me a lot, so I want to give a lot back to them. I am trying my best to make sure I am in a position so that I can give something back to my parents."
Like many young Chinese, Li Yan did not have a part-time job in high school, and she only works at odd jobs when it suits her. Her parents covered all of her school expenses. In return, she will be expected to give around one-quarter of her salary back to her parents once she enters the work force. "I really want to support my family. I am over 20 years old now. I need to work hard and make money for my family, to make them happy and their lives better."
But having limited work experience is making the job search process harder.
For a growing number of employers, good university grades are not enough. They want life experience as well as a good academic record. Yang Chun Xiu is with China HR, a leading personnel-recruiting company. "There are more and more graduates every year, but the graduates do not know where to position themselves in the job market. Most employers at the moment want people with experience, so it's harder for graduates to find a good job."
Yang says employers prefer candidates with two or three years' work experience to help boost their growing businesses. Experts say the job crisis is mostly in the big cities. In the countryside, some companies face a serious shortage of qualified workers.
Hu Xingdou is a professor of economics and China issues at Beijing Institute of Technology. He says graduates need to understand they cannot all land their dream jobs fresh out of university. "Some students feel because they have graduated university they are elite -- and maybe they are -- but really, they still need to join the common work force. There are not too many university graduates; they are just not in the right areas."
He says graduates looking for work should consider moving from the major cities to smaller towns, or even the countryside. Through financial incentives, the government could make this more attractive.
Like young people everywhere, China's graduates don't seem to want to give up the bright lights and perceived opportunities of the big cities to go where life is less exciting. So job fairs will continue to attract scores of applicants for every available job.