'You land a job yet?" is the most dreaded question awaiting Chinese college grads in July. That's because, in China, this sultry summer month is when fresh graduates leave behind the security blanket that is campus life and venture out into the real world—of work life.
This year saw a record 11.58 million students graduate from college, 820,000 more than last year. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), more than 33 million people aged 16 to 24 were seeking jobs in May, 18 percent of whom did not secure a position. High unemployment among this age group has sparked widespread concern.
According to a survey on the employability of college students by Chinese online recruitment platform Zhaopin Ltd., conducted from mid-March to mid-April, this year's proportion of college grads choosing to take a gap year to travel or work part-time had increased from last year's 15.9 percent to 18.9 percent, a sign of the heavy burden on young applicants' shoulders.
From July to December, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is going the extra mile to help young job hunters, from fresh college grads to registered unemployed young people (i.e., jobseekers aged 16-24). The past two months have seen Beijing organize more than 200 online and offline job fairs; in Fujian Province, college graduates will receive subsidies if they sign a one-year, or longer, work contract with micro, small or medium enterprises (MSMEs) and these employers in turn will also be rewarded subsidies for absorbing new graduates; and Anji County, Zhejiang Province, has set up more facilities such as shared workspaces for college grads to start up their own business.
China's pandemic control measures from 2020 to 2022 are partly to blame for the ultracompetitive environment young jobseekers find themselves faced with today. Stringent measures to contain the coronavirus took a toll on numerous MSMEs. Although the government introduced policies such as tax reductions to relieve them of their difficulties, many had to lay off staff to reduce operating costs and some even had to close up shop. As major employers of young people, the downsizing of MSMEs, and particularly of those in the service sector, has further squeezed job opportunities.
The adjustment of the COVID-19 control policy in late 2022 and early 2023 did revive said enterprises, but they do still need some time to grow to the point where they need, and can actually afford, new employees.
There are those grads moving from internship to internship because companies simply aren't hiring because they no longer have the budget to do so. There are the job hoppers, candidates who jump from job to job and have short stints with several employers. When they proceed to do so without caution, this "swift role-switching" often results in temporary unemployment given the complex and grave picture of China's current professional landscape. Then there's the discrepancy between young people's professional abilities and job expectations.
Governments at different levels, from central to local, by no means should downplay the challenges facing young jobseekers, including college grads, and must continue to roll out targeted measures to help those in need secure employment sooner rather than later. And feisty college grads on the hunt for the perfect position on their part must try to keep expanding their skillsets and always stand ready to sink their teeth into new opportunities at the drop of a graduation cap. It's July, and the heat is on.
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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