Ageism In China: Why 25-And-Up Is Already Too Old To Hire In Beijing

Young enough to get a job?
Young enough to get a job?
Zhang Fan

BEIJING - Last month, this city's Human Resources and Social Security Bureau introduced an administrative circular that stipulates "in principle" municipal government departments should impose age restrictions when hiring graduates settling in Beijing who are not officially residents holding local household registrations.

Those with undergraduate degrees who have moved to Beijing shouldn't be hired if they are older than 24, graduate students should be 28 or younger, and doctoral students, 35 or younger. The uproar came quickly.

On May 3, when interviewed by the Xinhua News Agency, the Beijing Human Resources and Social Security Bureau stated that their policy "has the premise of strictly controlling Beijing's household population growth." It stated that this new policy is not aimed at specific populations. The system of "household registration" denies certain rights to migrants from other parts of China.

On April 16th, China's Education Ministry issued a paper that "strictly prohibits discrimination in employment." The aim is to protect the legitimate rights and interests of graduates from violations related to gender, household registration or academic qualifications. Nevertheless, Beijing does not seem to be affected. On the contrary, it seems to be putting into practice this new policy of discrimination involving one's age and household registration.

So should graduates who wish to stay on in Beijing be subject to an age threshold? Is it considered to be a reasonable administrative policy attempting to balance population control and social equity?

Zheng Ge, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong, is convinced that in Beijing, where the environmental resources are below China's national average, it is necessary to enforce population control. However, the question is: does the cost of doing this have to be borne by those groups striving to change their own destiny?

Zheng pointed out that although it is recognized that age distinction and exclusion are flawed, it is effective in practice. Despite the age threshold appearing to be arbitrary, compared with gender, ethnicity, or educational degrees, it is relatively fairer. After all, when one knows the existence of an age threshold, one can adjust ones choice by continuous study without the interruption of working in between, or, even choose to study in Shanghai instead of in Beijing.

However, a fair society should provide channels of upward mobility for people who strive hard, Zheng Ge also pointed out. The reason why talent flocks to Beijing is not just because it has superior material conditions such as infrastructure and medical and education facilities, but also because the fierce job competition is actually a sign of an open labor market.

Breaking the infatuation

The smaller the place is, the more one relies on guanxi, the relationship, explains Zheng. The more interesting posts are often occupied by the relatives of local bigwigs. Older fresh graduates are often people who return to school aspiring to change their fate. The majority of them do not wish to go back to where they originally worked.

The Chinese government, says Zheng, should make efforts to break the local feudal networks so as to create a relatively fair and open nationwide job market. This is the how to break the infatuation that the the talented have with the Imperial capital.

"Even though differentiating and rejection are necessary management measures, the authorities should nonetheless try their best to reduce the harm to citizen rights when using this kind of method," Zheng asserts. Even though the one-size-fits-all age policy is fairer than gender or ethnicity discrimination, it nevertheless remains as a rigid policy that lacks sensibility to specific conditions. The government should allow employers autonomous decision-making so as to develop a screening mechanism based on merit rather solely on birthplace or age.

Although the native Beijing people are not to be driven away, they should participate in fair competition instead of using household registration as an advantage on the job market.

Zheng Ge puts it bluntly: restricting official residency in fact cannot control the number of people who actually come to live and work in Beijing. The existence of a large number of “North drifting” migrants is an indisputable fact. Not to allow them to settle down in fact increases the government’s management cost. Therefore, in the long run, migration should be dispersed, not blocked.

More generally, the current system of household registration solidifies regional disparities between urban and rural areas, and ought to be gradually replaced by a population registration system for security and management purposes.

"With the rapid development of China's process of urbanization, the transition function of the household registration system is gradually subsiding," concludes Zheng Ge. "The corresponding reform is inevitable. Against this backdrop, Beijing new policy about settlement is going in the wrong direction.”

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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