A record number of college alumni are searching for jobs
By Ji Jing  ·  2022-04-26  ·   Source: NO.17 APRIL 28, 2022
A graduating student from Northwest Normal University submits her resume to an employer at a job fair in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, on April 8 (XINHUA) 

Zhu Chengxin is going to graduate from a university in Hunan Province this year, but despite passing the first-round interview with a foreign company in Shanghai prior to the Spring Festival in February, he still hasn't been called for a second interview due to the city's COVID-19 resurgence.

Zhu is not the only graduating student to have difficulties finding a job this year. Zhu Xi, a senior student from Hunan Agricultural University, took the postgraduate entrance exam last December after failing to find a satisfactory job. However, as the pandemic has reduced the number of students going abroad to study, the competition for the postgraduate exam has intensified. There were 4.57 million who applied to sit for the exam in 2021, 800,000 more than the previous year, and only around 1.18 million will be admitted this year, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE). Zhu Xi was not among those selected but instead of looking for a job, he has made up his mind to sit for the exam again.

Zhu Xi said as there is great pressure from competition in the job market, it might be a good option to improve his competitive edge by completing a master's program.

"The resurgence of COVID-19 combined with the downward pressure on the economy are having a big impact on the employment of college graduates," Zeng Xiangquan, head of the China Institute for Employment Research, told China News Service.

Zeng said this new wave of the pandemic is different from that in 2020, when the outbreak was mainly in Hubei Province and, after the epidemic in Hubei was put under control, the overall employment situation improved.

This time, the Omicron variant is more contagious and the outbreaks are dispersed across the country, which is harder to control. Moreover, outbreaks in economically developed regions such as the Yangtze River Delta, which have high demands for new employees, also have an impact on recruitment of college graduates. Additionally, as the tourism and hospitality industries are heavily impacted by the pandemic, graduates of related majors will also be affected.

Lockdown measures imposed to control the pandemic in some areas have made it impossible to carry out face-to-face interviews and therefore hindered the employment process.

Zhang Nan, a graduating student from Shanghai Normal University, had an online interview with a middle school in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Although the school agreed to recruit her, it insisted on signing the contract in person after the lockdown in Shanghai is lifted.

Employers have their own concerns. Zhou Mingqi, founder of T-identifier Think Tank, said it is hard to make a decision simply through an online interview.

Employees at a big data startup in Chongqing Municipality on March 28 (XINHUA)


As the number of graduates increases, demand for new employees in real estate, training and Internet industries is shrinking.

According to a report published by online recruitment platform 51job, the numbers of college students recruited by the real estate and training industries last autumn were, respectively, just 57 percent and 61 percent of that in the same period of 2020.

In the Internet industry, large companies such as Tencent and Baidu are laying off employees and recruiting college students to reduce costs. Tencent plans to recruit 7,000 college graduates this year and Baidu plans to give out over 8,000 offers.

However, medium-sized and smaller companies in the industry tend to recruit more experienced talent rather than fresh college graduates.

Private companies, especially small and medium-sized companies' demand for employees has decreased significantly owing to the pandemic.

On the other hand, compared with the supply-demand imbalance, the structural imbalance of the job market is more serious, Zeng said.

According to data published by the information center of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS), in the third quarter of last year, the industry that needed the largest number of employees was the manufacturing industry, followed by the wholesale and retail industries. However, these industries are not college graduates' first choices. According to a report published by online recruitment platform Zhaopin, over one quarter of college graduates wanted to be employed in the Internet, telecommunications, and other information technology industries, followed by the real estate and construction sectors, and cultural, media, entertainment, sports as well as financial industries.

Qu Yue, a researcher with the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also said the employment problem for college graduates is more of a structural problem. For instance, the manufacturing industry needs more technical workers but college graduates are neither competent nor willing to take up such posts immediately after graduation.

Bolstering employment

To boost employment, the MOE has carried out a special campaign for university presidents to visit enterprises from March to August this year to expand employment channels for college graduates. Enterprises will be invited to universities to recruit talent, more employment opportunities will be provided and more high-quality and targeted employment information will be offered to students.

The campaign will also provide opportunities for universities to learn about employers' need for knowledge and skills, so that universities can make adjustments accordingly.

In March, 10 departments including the MOHRSS issued a notice to create 1 million internship posts for college graduates who fail to find jobs within two years of graduation and other jobless people aged 16-24. Employers providing these internships will be given preferential policies such as tax cuts and subsidies.

Zeng said the policy toolkit available in the short term is limited; however, the temporary increase in the unemployment rate is expected to ease as post-pandemic economic growth accelerates.

Stabilizing employment is closely related to stabilizing growth. Liu Yuanchun, an economist and Vice President of Renmin University of China, said every one percentage point of increase in GDP growth can bring about around 1.8 million jobs. China's GDP growth target is set at around 5.5 percent this year and if the target can't be achieved, it will be hard to guarantee sufficient employment.

It's also notable that nowadays the modes of employment have become more diversified, with starting up one's own businesses and engaging in flexible employment becoming increasingly popular among college graduates.

While his classmates were busy looking for jobs, Song Xiao, a graduating student of the Capital Normal University majoring in information technology was growing oranges in his home province Yunnan during his spare time. Due to the pandemic, he stayed at home taking online courses. Song started his own agricultural technology company in his hometown, Zhaotong City in Yunnan in 2020 and has used the Internet of Things technologies he learned at university to develop smart agricultural practices and tap into his hometown's rich agricultural resources.

To provide more support for college graduates in starting businesses, the State Council published a guideline on further supporting college students' innovation and entrepreneurship in October last year. The guideline vowed to enhance financial and tax support for college graduates' innovation and entrepreneurship.

On March 31, the Yunnan Provincial Government announced that small and medium-sized enterprises established by college graduates can now apply for loans of up to 3 million yuan ($465,600) within two years of graduation, which is good news for entrepreneurs like Song.

(Print Edition Title: Graduate Grind)

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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