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LinkAsia | Jul 19
As China's economy slows down, college graduates are anxiously scouring job listings. Today its estimated that one in four grads is unemployed, wit...
China’s economy has been booming. But as our contributor in Beijing, Charlie Custer, found out-- Chinese college grads feel like they’re missing out.
China’s economic momentum is well understood outside its borders. But perhaps less widely known is the fact that China’s higher education system has also undergone rapid expansion.
China’s elite universities continue as they have for decades, but new colleges have sprung up, and many more are rapidly increasing enrollment. According to the government, China now has six times more college graduates than it did a decade ago.
It’s beginning to look as if there are too many graduates and too few jobs. Or good jobs at least, jobs the grads want. In some cases, there may be hundreds of applications for a single opening.
One frustrated applicant wrote on Sina Weibo: "Before I thought that the stories of college students not being able to find jobs were just a way to scare people, now all I can do is face the truth."
"This is the result of educational reform and expansion," wrote one Weibo user responding to a story about students protesting the expansion of their school. "And what concerns people even more is the large number of college graduates who can’t find jobs."
Another user agreed, "Graduates being unable to find jobs is a mess that was brought on by blind expansion, higher education needs to rethink its approach!"
A bigger problem may be that with so much competition, salaries for recent college grads are dreadfully low. A Beijing Times report found that the average college grad makes a monthly salary of around 230 U.S. dollars, barely more than a migrant laborer.
One netizen wrote: "Even if you can get into college, so what? A million college graduates this year will face tough job prospects. Government statistics showed that 87% of college grads last year found jobs. That means 13% didn’t. Moreover, many students who have found jobs have told the media their salaries are very low."
But not everyone agrees the problem is systemic. "It doesn’t matter whether the kids are rich or poor, these days, none of them know how to endure hardship. People are sympathetic to college grads because they’re forced to take jobs they don’t like? I don’t know what direction our social values are going in; are we trying to make it so that students get a car and a house as soon as they graduate so they can enjoy life properly?"
In Beijing, I’m Charlie Custer, for Link TV.
So Charlie, What’s the government doing to help students who are unemployed?”
There’s been a little bit of a push for actually creating jobs, but honestly I think there’s more effort from the government not to resolve that issue, but rather to try to resolve some of the social problems they face. For example, rising housing prices, rising inflation. That is the demographic that’s most affected by things like that, because if you’re just out of college and you’re only getting paid such a small amount of money the fact that pork costs twice what it did, and your apartment costs twice what it should has a huge effect on your ability to live. So I think the government has been putting an effort into resolving those issues than resolving the issue of graduate jobs directly at this point.
Have there been any allegations that Chinese universities are acting in bad faith? I mean for example, here in the U.S., a lot of people have been complaining that law schools have been admitting more and more students, even though they know that the job prospects for law school grads are fairly dim, as a way to make more money. Has there been any concern that Chinese schools are doing the same thing?
There’s certainly a lot of skepticism about colleges, and the reasons they are taking more and more people. And some of them are lowering their standards intentionally to take more and more people. So there’s a good bit of cynicism about that. That also lowers the value of their degree. Before if you said I graduated from this school in China, then people know that means your gao-kao score, your score on college entrance exams, was above this. Because there’s a hard line for every school. Your score had to have been above that. But now, you know, if they lower that line, that just makes your degree look worse. So there’s a lot of frustration about that.