Count Them In Or Out? China's Next Generation Of Job Hunters

Looking to the future in Hangzhou...
Looking to the future in Hangzhou...
Yang Dongping

Ever since 2002, when the first batch of students graduated after national expansion of university enrollment, the difficulty for educated young people to find employment has become a hot topic each summer.

The total number of graduates has grown every year. With 6.99 million fresh graduates this year, the number is hitting another record high.

The market needs time to absorb this sudden growth of employment demand. Though it isn't easy, the situation isn't as serious as it is sometimes presented. Based on the experience of the past decade, the growing number of China's college graduates has been largely absorbed into the workforce.

So why the annual alarm and panic about the job hunt for these young people?

A part of the explanation, I believe, is a faulty method for calculating the unemployment statistics. The alarm has always been sounded around March or April because the universities have started assessing their students' employment rate. Nothing is more absurd than a student who is pressed to sign up for a job before he even walks out of college.

Choosing a career is a complex and lengthy process, and can never be as uniform as the orderly assignment of jobs in China's era of a planned economy. It's completely normal that graduates take up to six months or even a year to find a job after finishing their studies.

Moreover, false employment rate calculations by Chinese universities are highly prevalent. This not only greatly reduces the reliability of the data, but also prevents us from acknowledging the real job hunting situation for graduates. This also makes the senior year -- and the second semester in particular -- into little more than a job-hunting season.

Obviously, as time goes by, the graduate employment rate will increase. The statistic released by China's Ministry of Education has basically always been above 70% in the past, with its time node set on September 1. The employment rate of graduates on December 31, 2005, published by China's Ministry of Personnel, showed a figure of 87.7%. This was 15% higher than the data on September 1. If the calculation were pushed back to be one year after graduation, one could expect a further 10% increase. Since this means an employment rate of over 90% one year after graduation, where is the big problem?

The way foreign colleges assess their alumni employment situation is always based on one year after graduation. It is only in a planned economy where jobs are assigned that the rates are measured before the students leave school, on July 1.

It is thus imperative that China set its statistical clock in accordance with international practice, i.e., December 31 for the six-month mark, and July 1 for one year after graduation. Not only will this largely increase the usefulness of the employment rate data and avoid panic, the statistic will also be more credible.

In addition, the statistical methods must be reformed. Currently the data comes self-reported from colleges, which are lax in effective monitoring and regulation. The more pressure the colleges suffer, the worse the data is distorted.

Establishing a new statistical mechanism for the rate of graduate employment can be part of the government's new attempt at raising the quality of its information dissemination, and communicating through social media.

As for the latest information, the most noteworthy is how certain fields of study can lead to vastly greater difficulty in finding a job after graduation.

What employers want

According to surveys by MyCOS, an education data consulting firm, the "Top 10" unemployment list features graduates who recently majored in English, computer science and technology, law, art and design, international economy and trade, business administration, accounting, electronic and information engineering, Chinese language and literature, information management and systems.

The major reason is that when China set in motion the "Great Leap Forward" in university enrollment, a large number of low-cost liberal arts majors were created. This has resulted in an imbalance between supply and demand. Meanwhile, the once popular disciplines such as international trade or computer science have changed from being in short supply to being in surplus.

The high draw for art courses, as well as audiovisual and animation professions, is obviously illogical. Yet, year after year, these disciplines produce an excessive number of graduates and continue to admit massive numbers of students. This is the clearest reflection that China's higher education system is disconnected from the job market.

Businesses' appraisal of graduates is worth paying attention to as well. The employers' dissatisfaction with graduates isn't just because they lack updated expertise or don't have certain practical skills, but due to, first of all, their value system: questions such as integrity, professionalism and a good working attitude.

What depresses employers are the half-hearted, frequent job-hoppers -- or worse, the dishonest ones who take them as a springboard and quit their jobs without even giving proper notice. Businesses tend to prefer to pay higher salaries for proficient workers rather than training them from scratch. This certainly makes matters worse for fresh graduates desperately looking for work.

Apart from all these longer term trends, there is also a brand new tendency. Because of China's economic downturn, the recruitment needs of enterprises have significantly decreased over the past months. This is unprecedented in the past decade. Alas, the resolution of this issue is beyond the sphere of education and it seems that there is no instant answer.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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