Jobs with better work-life balance grow popular among Chinese graduates
Fresh out of college
Published: Mar 09, 2023 04:34 PM
A job fair for state-owned enterprises is held in Kunming, Yunnan Province on March 7, 2023.  Photo: VCG

A job fair for state-owned enterprises is held in Kunming, Yunnan Province on March 7, 2023. Photo: VCG

The past few months have been a roller coaster for Li Zheng (pseudonym), a Peking University fresh graduate with a master's degree in literature of foreign language this year. After failing the national and local civil servant exams at the end of 2022, Li landed a job at a large-scale state-owned enterprise with a starting salary of about 17,000 yuan ($2,441.69) per month, another satisfying choice for her according to her career expectations.

Such a starting salary matches her anticipations as an elite student of liberal arts major from one of China's top universities where most of her classmates had obtained job offers with a starting yearly salary between 200,000 yuan and 250,000 yuan in 2023. 

Li and her classmates are just an extremely tiny proportion of more than 10 million Chinese fresh graduates who joined the competitive job market this year. A latest survey on college graduates' income conducted by the MyCOS, an education consulting and research institute in Beijing, shows that the average monthly salary for fresh graduates in 2021 was 5,833 yuan and only 6.1 percent earned a starting salary of more than 10,000 yuan per month. 

The number of Chinese college fresh graduates has been rising in recent years with about 8.74 million in 2020, 9.09 million in 2021, 10.76 million in 2022, and is expected to reach 11.58 million in 2023. 

The Government Work Report delivered during the first session of the 14th National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday gave priority to ensuring stable growth and employment, and vowed to create about 12 million urban jobs in 2023. Since salary is one of the biggest concerns for job-hunters, and college graduates are considered to be high earners in the labor market, fresh college graduates' starting salaries are usually the most popular topics every year. 

According to the MyCOS's report, the average salary for fresh graduates with bachelors' degrees was 5,833 yuan per month within the year after they graduated in 2021, a record high over the past decade. Besides, 38.4 percent of graduates had a starting salary of between 4,000 yuan and 6,000 yuan, 23.7 percent with 6,000 yuan to 8,000 yuan and only 6.1 percent was able to earn more than 10,000 yuan per month, still a small group despite higher than the proportion of 4.3 percent in 2020. 

The industries where fresh graduates in 2021 had higher pays include information transmission, software and information technology services, with an average monthly salary of 6,781 yuan, and 6,508 yuan for the electronic and electrical equipment manufacturing industry. 

Wang Qi, founder of DarkNavy Security, an information security company based in Shanghai, who has been engaged in the white-hat hacker industry for over 20 years, said the salaries of an industry depend on many factors. 

Despite that fresh graduates or postgraduates at his company can earn as much as 30,000 per month with their yearly income grossing over 600,000 yuan, almost all the fresh graduates he hired were the champions of all kinds of hackers' competitions with their capabilities matching their gains. 

He Bo'an, a fresh graduate of computer science major from Fudan University, has just started his career at a private company in high-tech drone manufacturing. Apart from a decent pay, he has observed that his colleagues prefer a work-life balance. 

"Despite some of my classmates tend to choose challenging jobs, there are still some prefer to choose jobs with more leisure hours which allow them to lead a life with better work-life balance," He told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

In order to boost employment of fresh graduates, China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security vowed at a meeting on March 2 to improve supporting policies to encourage employment and entrepreneurship of fresh graduates and provide more services to fresh graduates about job-hunting. Measures include guiding graduates to find jobs in small and medium-sized enterprises and in urban and rural communities, and supporting graduates to start their own businesses and find flexible employment. At the same time, local governments have been instructed to adjust and optimize the schedule of professional qualification examinations to spare more time for graduates to find jobs.

The Shanghai government issued a policy that it will provide a one-time employment subsidy of 2,000 yuan per person to employers who recruit 2023 college graduates in Shanghai. The Education Department of Central China's Hunan Province has also set up 25 permanent regional and industrial employment markets for college graduates, and provided 610,000 jobs for the fresh graduates.

The MyCOS's report also shows that fresh graduates who work in public organs such as public security bureaus, procuratorates and people's courts, and legal professionals, medical personnel and researchers have higher satisfaction toward their employment.

For many graduates, salary is no longer the only criterion for finding a job. The ability to realize personal value, learn skills and balance work and life have become the factors that many graduates will consider when looking for a job.