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October 29th, 2008
China Prep
Chinese Grads Face Tough Job Market

The global financial crisis is starting to filter down to China’s job market, with recent university graduates finding it harder than ever to secure work.  Citing the meltdown on Wall Street, fewer multinational firms are recruiting at job fairs on Chinese campuses this fall.  Some foreign corporations, such as the French supermarket chain Carrefour, are suspending recruitment from Chinese universities entirely.

Though China’s economy has been less affected by the financial crash than other global economies, figures released last week show its growth dipped to 9% this quarter, down from 11.9% last year.

For much of the Communist era, unemployment among China’s college graduates wasn’t an issue, because the state arranged jobs for all diploma holders.  But since the mid-1980s, students have been allowed to choose their own career paths and compete on the job market.  This year the unemployment rate among new grads is expected to reach over 15% — the highest since the removal of the state-backed employment system.

Xiao Jiang, a finance major from Zhejiang University, told the China Daily newspaper last week that he has applied for about 20 positions at various multinational companies, with no luck.  “I didn’t think it would take this long,” he said. “It’s tough just to get an interview.  I can no longer consider whether my specialty matches my future job. The most important thing is whether I can find a job.”

Judging by the testimonies of these Chinese bloggers, the job market was already ferociously competitive last year. In addition to the global financial crisis, this year’s grads have to contend with greater numbers entering the job market — the graduation rate from Chinese universities is up 7%, and many Chinese who went abroad to study are returning home, finding it difficult to secure employment in the U.S. or Europe during the downturn.

In this context, civil service jobs are becoming popular again, as working for the Chinese state tends to guarantee steady pay, social status, and cushy welfare benefits.  The website of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security which released information on Monday about this year’s national civil service exam crashed less than an hour after going live, overloaded by millions of eager candidates.  The website was up and running again on Tuesday.  The examination, which seeks to fill a total of 13,566 government jobs, will be held on November 30.

WIDE ANGLE’s China Prep follows five Chinese students through their final high-pressure year at an elite high school as they prepare for a different but equally competitive test: the national university entrance exam.

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