China’s youth face a bleak job market as the economy slows due to the coronavirus
Beijing – Liu Qian, who is looking for work and holds a new master’s degree, said that two employers interviewed her and then said that the two positions had been abolished. Others asked her to take a lower wage.
She is one of the 11 million new graduates in dire need of work in a bleak job market as anti-virus controls force factories, restaurants and other employers to close. Survivors are cutting jobs and wages.
“Do I not deserve it?” Liu asked. “From the moment I started looking for a job, I felt as if a machine had wrecked my future, not knowing if I could piece it all together.”
Liu, 26, said some employers refused when she asked for a monthly salary of 8,000 yuan ($1,200). The average graduate last year earned the equivalent of 9,800 yuan ($1,500) a month, according to job-search platform Liepin.
There were nearly two graduates vying for every job vacancy in the three months ending in June, up from 1.4 in the previous quarter, according to the China Institute of Employment Research and Zhaopin.com, another job search website.
China’s job drought echoes the struggles of young people around the world to find work in declining economies, but it is particularly politically sensitive in a year when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to extend his tenure in power.
Graduates often come from urban families who are the biggest winners of China’s economic growth, an important source of political support. The ruling party needs them, especially those with technical training, to start their careers to advance the development of the industry.
Fortunately, she rented Liu’s publishing house in late July, two months after her graduation.
The official unemployment rate in June for people aged 16 to 24 was nearly 20%, compared to 5.5% for all ages. This is expected to rise once the most recent graduates are taken into account.
Premier Li Keqiang, the ruling party’s second top economic official, said in March that the government hoped to create 13 million new jobs this year, but did not specify how many jobs might be lost due to business closures. It is expected that 16 million people will be looking for work, Lee said.
Li promised “pro-jobs policies” including tax and fee cuts totaling 2.5 trillion yuan ($400 billion) to employers.
Libin said that a third of the companies surveyed between last March and this April said they plan to hire fewer new graduates. It said 27%, mostly state-owned, would hire more, and 18% had no plans to change course.
China’s unusually tough approach to COVID-19 has kept case numbers down, but the cost is rising.
The economy contracted in the three months ending in June compared to the previous quarter as factory activity and consumer spending declined. The ruling party has stopped talking about its ability to meet the official growth target of 5.5% for this year.
The frequent shutdowns that shut down factories and offices in Shanghai and other industrial centers for weeks on end have disrupted the traditional labor market, said Zhang Zhenggang of the Capital University of Economics and Business.
Zhang said companies are “reducing staffing needs” because of a “life-saving mindset”.
“In the future, we will face the challenges of technology,” he said. Indeed, uncertainty in the labor market may increase. So for college students, the most important thing is adaptability.”
Uncertainty looms in various industries. Internet companies gave up their jobs after the ruling party tightened its control by launching data security and antitrust investigations. Real estate is in decline after regulators crack down on the use of debt.
Tao Yingsui, a graduate of 2021, has left his internship at an educational institute before graduation, worried about the government’s crackdown on the industry that has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs.
In April, she quit working for a financial company when she realized it was promoting virtual currencies, which is “in fact illegal in our country”.
“Students tend to strive for stability,” said Xing Zhenkai, a researcher at Liepin.
Sheng said that two out of five graduates surveyed want to work for state-owned enterprises that the government considers safer and supports them.
Tao is preparing to pass the civil service exam in Anhui Province, west of Shanghai, while looking for other jobs. I have submitted over 120 resumes and connected with nearly 2,000 potential employers online.
With fewer jobs and more people looking for jobs, “companies can be more selective,” Tao said. “They prefer those with experience rather than a green hand like me.”
Chang said other graduates are putting off work, choosing to stay in school or take exams for government jobs that may pay less than the private sector but offer more stability and social status.
Frustration with fierce competition for government-subsidized jobs erupted into an online protest when pop star Jackson Yi, also known as Yi Yang Qianxi, appeared on the shortlist of nominated performers at the China National Theatre.
The Chinese public on social media, including Yee fans, wondered if he abused his celebrity privilege in the hiring process to get a position that was rewarding for him but would give the other contenders a real break.
Yi denied receiving special treatment but announced that he would give up the position.
Antivirus controls have closed in-person job fairs and postponed civil service exams that create jobs for hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Fang Xiu, an accounting graduate in the central province of Hubei, said the delay in the civil service exam from March to July disrupted the job search process. She is waiting to find out how she did.
“If it wasn’t for the epidemic, my exam wouldn’t have been delayed and I wouldn’t have struggled for so long,” Fang said. “I hate pandemic forever.”
Fang would prefer to work for the government but said she would accept a job accounting for a manufacturing company.
Graduate numbers soared after an initiative launched in 2019, before the pandemic, to increase training in technical skills the government said were “urgently needed”. It is expected that more job seekers will enter the labor market in the coming years.
“If I don’t have a job this year, it will definitely be more difficult next year,” Fang said.
Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang in Beijing and researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report.
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