China will see a record number of graduates moving into the job market this summer. Seven million will complete their studies this year and shift their attention toward building a career. With China’s economy already slowing, job prospects for many new graduates are not good.
At a hotel near some of Beijing's most prestigious schools, scores of job seekers are lined up, waiting to speak with recruiters about opportunities at software, information technology and engineering firms.
One of them is An Tingting, a 22-year-old recent graduate from central Henan province. She came to Beijing a couple months ago to take an IT training course.
“I have been looking for jobs the past two weeks and I think that it is indeed hard because I graduated from a vocational school, and so the level of my education is pretty low. Also, I did not study software in college, I studied education, so it is more difficult for me to find an IT job,” she said.
Not only are there seven million graduates this year moving into the market, but more than 200,000 who graduated last year are still looking for jobs.
“Only 30 percent of graduates can sign a contract and be employed right away," explained Hu Xingdou, an economist at the Beijing Institute of Technology. "The majority of students have to continue to look for work or remain unemployed."
And it’s not just the number of graduates that is making the search for jobs difficult.
After a decade of double-digit growth, China’s economy is slowing. Chinese leaders admit they are struggling to keep growth around seven percent.
But, Hu Xingdou said the biggest problem is the unsustainable structure of China’s industry and the huge disparities between regions.
“There are many places in China where graduate students are needed, but graduate students are not willing to go. For example private enterprises in China have a strong need for graduate students, but students prefer to go to state owned enterprises, government departments, public institutions, foreign companies and so forth,” Hu said.
Back at the job fair, Xie Zhiyong said that while he already has a job, he is looking for another because he does not like his current work environment. He said that if you have some experience, it is easy to find jobs.
Xie studied bio-technology and graduated two years ago from a school in southeastern Jiangxi province.
“In Beijing there are more companies, more talent is here and there are more opportunities… I want to develop myself here for a bit and then I hope to go back to Jiangxi to develop more," Xie said.
Recently, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called on companies to give more opportunities to new graduates. In response, some privately run enterprises have announced increases in their hiring of new graduates.
Analysts say the government could go even further by giving private companies tax incentives and funding to help level the playing field with state-owned enterprises. They also say the government could encourage new graduates to work in smaller cities away from China’s coastal areas by giving them subsidies or other incentives.