By Martin Quin Pollard
BEIJING (Reuters) – Jenny Bai was among 10 high-achieving computer science students from various Chinese universities selected by a Beijing-based Internet company for a job after graduation after four rounds of painstaking interviews.
Last month, however, the company told students their contract bids were canceled due to adverse COVID-19 winds and the state of the economy as a whole – obstacles facing a record 10.8 million Chinese college graduates this summer.
“I’m worried,” said Bai, who graduated this month and did not want to name the company in order to stay on good terms. “If I can’t find a job, I’m not sure what to do.”
China’s restrictions on COVID have hit an economy that is already slowing due to the recession in the real estate market, geopolitical concerns and regulatory repressions in technology, education and other sectors.
A group of graduates larger than the total population of Portugal is about to enter one of China’s worst labor markets in decades at a time when youth unemployment is already three times China’s total unemployment rate at a record 18. 4%.
There is no scenario of how such high youth unemployment will affect Chinese society.
The struggle to find work runs counter to what educated young people expect after decades of dizzying growth and is uncomfortable for the Communist Party of China, which is obsessed with stability, especially in a year when President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third leadership term. .
“The social contract between the government and the people was to stay out of politics and we can guarantee that every year you will do better than last year,” said Michael Pettis, a professor of economics at Peking University.
“Well, the concern is that once this warranty is broken, what else needs to change?”
Prime Minister Li Keqiang said stabilizing the labor market for graduates is a top government priority. Companies that provide internships to young graduates will receive grants, in addition to other benefits aimed at boosting employment in general.
Some regional governments have offered cheap loans to graduates who want to start their own businesses. State-backed businesses are expected to take part in the relaxation of entry-level jobs in the private sector.
Rockee Zhang, CEO of Greater China at Randstad Recruitment Company, says China’s entry-level labor market was even worse than it was during the 2008-09 global financial crisis, estimating that new jobs decreased by 20-30% from last year.
“This year is a low point, the lowest I have ever seen,” said Zhang, who has been in charge of recruitment for two decades.
Expected salaries are also 6.2% lower, according to Zhilian Zhaopin, another recruitment company.
China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Ministry of Education did not respond to requests for comment.
The technology sector has been a major employer of many Chinese graduates, but this year the industry is shrinking its workforce, say recruiters.
A regulatory crackdown has pushed many of China’s tech giants, including Tencent and Alibaba, into massive job cuts. A total of tens of thousands lost their jobs in the industry this year, five tech industry sources told Reuters.
Job cuts varied among about 10 of China’s top tech companies, but almost all of them cut at least 10 percent of their staff, with some, including iQIYI, cutting much more, according to a report released in April by the group. NormStar for talent assessment and management based in Shanghai. .
The companies did not respond to requests for comment.
In April, the nine-month freeze on online game licenses for violent content and other issues was lifted, during which 14,000 companies in the industry closed.
Private education, another sector that attracted regulatory control, also split with tens of thousands of employees. The largest company in the industry, New Oriental, announced 60,000 layoffs.
New hires are slow. A human resources manager at a Tencent business unit, who asked not to be named as he was not allowed to speak to the media, said they were trying to hire “a few dozen” new graduates, compared to about 200 a year.
“Internet companies have cut tons of jobs,” said Julia Zhou of Robert Walters. “If they have the financial resources to bring in people, now they are choosing more experienced candidates instead of new graduates.”
Jason Wang, a Beijing-based bounty hunter who has worked primarily with technology companies in recent years, is now recruiting mainly for state-sponsored telecommunications companies.
“The golden age of online hiring is over,” Wang said.
In China, being unemployed for some time after graduation is usually disgusting to employers. Many families see it as humiliation and not as bad luck with the economy.
Getting a job after graduating from university also often causes disapproval, so to avoid large gaps in their CVs, record numbers apply for postgraduate studies, according to official figures.
Vicente Yu graduated in 2021, but has been unemployed since losing his job at a media company late last year. His savings will cover a month or two of rent and basic expenses in the southern city of Guangzhou.
“Dad told me you should never go home again, he said he should have raised a dog instead of me,” said the 21-year-old, who struggles with anxiety and sleep problems.
He spends his evenings on social networking platforms, where he finds other young people in similar situations.
“I look at all those people who are like me, who could not find a job and I get some consolation from it.”
(This story corrects the details mentioned in the NormStar report in paragraph 20)
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Number of graduates in China https://tmsnrt.rs/3N5ZYlT
Expected salary for graduates in China https://tmsnrt.rs/3OeMmGi
Rising youth unemployment in urban China https://tmsnrt.rs/3n7IJpF
Postgraduate enrollment in China https://tmsnrt.rs/3ybIHmP
Postgraduate enrollment in China (interactive) https://tmsnrt.rs/3tSO9IS
Number of graduates in China (interactive) https://tmsnrt.rs/3QGpgdi
Rising youth unemployment in urban China (interactive) https://tmsnrt.rs/3xCGKhW
Expected salary for graduates in China (interactive) https://tmsnrt.rs/3Nq7TL3
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(Additional references by Ellen Zhang, Yingzhi Yang, Brenda Goh, Sophie Yu and the Beijing Newsroom; Edited by Marius Zaharia and Lincoln Feast)