7.65m grads to hit job market

By Liang Fei Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-30 0:23:01

Low employment in slowdown may cause social problems

New college graduates are struggling with lower starting salaries and a more competitive job market as a record high 7.65 million set to graduate from college amid a cooling economy.

In what has been dubbed as the "toughest graduation season," the average starting salary of college graduates is expected to be only 4,765 yuan ($726.2) this year, a drop from 4,793 yuan in 2015, career platform zhaopin.com said in an e-mail sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

The starting salary is even lower than those of some migrant workers, who can sometimes earn about 8,000 yuan a month for construction work.

The number of graduates this year increased by 160,000 compared to 2015, data from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) shows.

Colleges in China usually post decent employment rate of their graduates, but there have been media reports criticizing that the figures are sometimes cooked to make college management look better.

 Therefore, this year's employment of college graduates is especially concerning as low employment rate among this group may potentially cause social problems.

During a visit to the MOHRSS on May 6, Premier Li Keqiang called for greater support to employment for college graduates and migrant workers to prevent mass unemployment.

This comes at a time when China's economy is experiencing major restructuring, and sectors like steel and coal have to cut capacity amid the "supply-side reform." Instead of creating more jobs, these sectors would have to either lay off or relocate about 1.8 million workers, media reports said.

"Graduates are facing greater pressure finding jobs this year. A greater number of students are graduating, but the economic downturn has stunted the number of jobs available," said Peng Jianfeng, a professor at the School of Labor and Human Resources of the Renmin University of China.

Zhaopin.com data shows that online job offers only grew 4 percent in the first quarter, much lower than the 19 percent growth in the same period in 2015, as traditional sectors downsize recruitment amid the economic restructuring.

However, more graduates choose to work instead of pursuing higher degrees - 75.6 percent of graduates have chosen to find jobs this year, compared with 71.2 percent in 2015, zhaopin.com data showed.

Cui Qiang, a finance graduate from a top university in Beijing, told the Global Times that finding a job is "extremely hard" this year.

A zhaopin.com survey found that fewer graduates are willing to start their own business despite the government's call for entrepreneurship among college graduates - only 3.1 percent of college graduates chose to do so this year, down from 6.3 percent in 2015.

Adjusting expectations

China's working age population has been declining in the past few years - those aged from 16 to 59 dropped by a record 4.87 million to 911 million in 2015, compared with a decline of 3.7 million in 2014, official data shows.

But this does not mean that jobs are any easier to come by for college graduates, who generally have high expectations.

College graduates should adjust their job expectations, Peng said. "A good job does not necessarily mean one in State-owned firms or government, or a white-collar one," he said. "Starting an online business or becoming a freelancer could also be a good option after graduation."

The fact that the starting salary of college graduates is sometimes lower than that of migrant workers does not mean college graduates are less wanted. "Well-educated labor is what the economy needs during upgrading," he said, adding that the starting salary may be low, but the potential for further growth is high. 

In a broad sense, the overall job market is not that bad, experts said. Manufacturing may be falling, but the rising services sector could serve to stabilize the labor market, Su Hainan, an expert at China Association for Labor Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday, adding that the labor market will stabilize this year. 

In the Government Work Report released in March, China has set a target of creating 10 million urban jobs in 2016, while maintaining an unemployment rate of under 4.5 percent.

Su said that he is quite upbeat over China's ability to fulfill this year's target, as the number of new urban jobs has been above 13 million for three consecutive years, and economic growth is sufficient to generate that many jobs.

Posted in: Economy

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