Young Chinese job seekers struggle despite economic recovery

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Zhengzhou (China) (AFP)

Biology student Ma Jingjing strolled through the lobby of a job fair in central China among other young Chinese in hopes of finding work in an economy crushed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ma, 26, is one of nearly nine million people who have graduated and entered the workforce this year at a time of great uncertainty, an issue that worries the ruling Communist Party so much that the president Xi Jinping has made it a priority.

The world’s second largest economy may have rebounded sharply from a historic virus-induced contraction, but its unemployment rate for young graduates in June was more than three times that of urban unemployment.

Ma was one of hundreds of young faces entering and leaving the job fair during a recent weekend in Zhengzhou, where employers from sectors ranging from real estate to manufacturing were recruiting.

Like many others, the future teacher is “lost” and wonders whether she should be content with a job or suspend her job to continue her studies.

“I applied to seven or eight private schools, but only one called me back for an interview,” she told AFP at the show.

“I have studied for so many years and I don’t want my family to pay for additional training,” she said.

“I am particularly worried about my finances. ”

Recognizing the risk that mass unemployment could trigger political unrest – jeopardizing the party’s promise of prosperity in return for unchallenged political power – the government has sought to boost graduate employment through public enterprises (SOE).

But the less good opportunities this year are pushing some towards further education, less ideal jobs, or other options.

– ‘Extremely anxious’ –

Although the Chinese economy appeared to make a strong comeback in the second quarter – growing 3.2% year on year – analysts warn the rebound could be overestimated, with a re-emerging gap between national figures and data more frequent.

Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics told AFP that there is no doubt China is recovering, but the scale would determine whether growth is “strong enough to absorb some of the labor market problems” that emerged earlier this year, such as layoffs.

A growth gap of a few percentage points could lead to a difference of millions of jobs created, he added.

Although China’s urban unemployment rate slipped to 5.7% in June, 19.3% of new graduates remained unemployed, UOB economists said in a report, adding that the labor market ” continued to face challenges ”.

Higher level economic data did not necessarily mean better hiring in the field.

Kang, 27, who graduated in 2017, is back in the market after his contract in the communications industry in Beijing ended.

He decided to return to Zhengzhou, but only received about five reminders after sending over 30 resumes to companies – and is still looking for a job.

“The virus outbreak has restricted travel and many job fairs have been postponed or canceled,” he said. “I am extremely anxious. ”

Lu Yifan, 25, said the pandemic has caused many overseas Chinese students like himself to return home earlier than expected – adding to the flood of job seekers.

And Zhao Jingying, 22, a Guangdong graduate, told AFP, “For us (this year), getting just one job offer is quite an achievement. ”

Another, Beijing-based Huo Ruixi, 23, left college in July but is planning a second round of continuing education after an unsuccessful five-month job search.

– ‘The pressures are more important’ –

The crisis is also posing problems for employers.

Yang Changwei, director of Deyou Real Estate, told AFP at the Zhengzhou fair that it was becoming increasingly difficult to hire sales staff on a commission basis.

“We have the impression that the mentalities of job seekers have changed,” he said.

“In sales you may or may not make deals, but with other jobs the income may be more stable. As a result of the epidemic, financial pressures are also greater. ”

Officials are stepping up efforts to boost graduate employment, and Premier Li Keqiang has announced that more than nine million new jobs will be created this year.

A State Council directive in March said small businesses that recruit graduates with contracts longer than one year will receive a grant, while state-owned companies will “continually expand” the scale of recruiting graduates this year. and next year.

Henan officials, for one, said at least half of the recruitment positions in state-owned enterprises in the province should be reserved for this year’s graduates, while Nanjing City in Jiangsu Province , set aside one billion yuan ($ 143 million) to provide 100,000 internships for struggling graduates, Xinhua reported.

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