China’s top education authority has warned fresh university graduates of a turbulent employment scenario as coronavirus-related restrictions and lockdowns take a hit on businesses and the economy.
Officials from the Ministry of Education said the job market this year would fare worse than in 2020 when China had largely contained COVID-19 by the summer. Ministry officials made the comments during a meeting earlier this month, where they announced plans on boosting the employment rate in mid-May, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, reported Tuesday.
China’s employment sector has been fiercely competitive amid an increasing number of fresh graduates every year. A record 10.76 million undergraduate and postgraduate students are graduating this year, a year-on-year increase of 1.67 million.
Wang Luojie, a senior student graduating from a leading university in Shanghai, told Sixth Tone that companies were not hiring as enthusiastically as before. He has decided to extend his undergraduate studies by a year given the employment outlook.
“It’s an option for me because I hadn’t gained enough credits for graduation anyway,” he said. “Many of my peers sat for exams for graduate studies — it’s a choice made by many to delay job seeking.”
A teacher in charge of students’ affairs at a university in the city’s Songjiang District said March and April are typically peak months for graduating seniors to secure a job. He said while in-person campus job fairs have been canceled due to the ongoing lockdown, many companies were also cutting the number of new recruits.
“They’ll be encouraged to stay in the city center to make finding employment more convenient,” said the teacher, adding that the university is considering providing students with stipends to partially cover rent.
The Ministry of Education noted that a range of issues, from a flare-up of COVID-19 along with the reduction of vacancies offered by companies to a structural conflict in the employment sector, have severely affected the labor market this year. The authority said the country will establish a mechanism to support projects to train talents for designated professions and help keep tabs on majors with a job placement rate of less than 50%.
Meanwhile, some students said they have been lucky enough to receive job offers despite the grim prospects. A student in Shanghai named Xiao Xin said she will soon start working at a state-run enterprise but still has concerns over job security.
“The pandemic has changed my perceptions of a job,” Xiao told Sixth Tone. “I was fond of exploring new things, but now I feel it’s better to take up a civil service job because stability is the priority.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: College students attend a job fair in Zhangye, Gansu province, April 24, 2022. VCG)