China’s youth face dark job market as COVID slows economy


BEIJING — Liu Qian, a job hunter with a new master’s degree, said two employers interviewed her before the position was removed. Others asked her to reduce her salary.

She is one of 11 million new graduates desperate for a job in a tough job market as virus restrictions force factories, restaurants and other employers to close. Survivors are cutting jobs and wages.

“Am I worthless?” asked Ryu. “From the moment I started looking for a job, it felt like my future was broken by a machine. I don’t know if I could piece it together.”

Liu, 26, said some employers hesitated when she requested an 8,000 yuan ($1,200) monthly salary. Last year, the average graduate received a salary equivalent to 9,800 yuan ($1,500) per month, according to job-search platform Liepin.

In the three months to June, nearly two new graduates competed for every job opening, up from 1.4 in the previous quarter, according to the China Institute of Employment and, another job site.

China’s jobs drought reflects global youth struggling to find jobs in a sluggish economy, but President Xi Jinping is expected to try to lengthen his time in power This year has been particularly politically sensitive.

Graduates are often from urban families who have been the biggest winners of China’s economic growth, an important source of political support. We need them, especially those with technical training.

Luckily, a publisher hired Liu in late July, two months after graduating.

The official unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds was almost 20% in June, compared to 5.5% for all ages. Taking into account the latest graduates, it is expected to rise.

Premier Li Keqiang, the ruling party’s second-largest economy chief, said in March that the government hoped to create 13 million new jobs this year, but said how many jobs could be lost due to business closures. did not disclose whether there is Li said 16 million people are expected to be looking for work.

Mr. Li promised employers a “job promotion policy” that included a total of 2.5 trillion yuan ($400 billion) in tax cuts and fee cuts.

According to Liepin, one-third of the companies surveyed between March and April this year said they plan to reduce hiring of new graduates. Twenty-seven percent, most of which are state-owned enterprises, plan to hire more staff, while 18 percent said they have no plans to change course.

China’s unusually harsh approach to COVID-19 has kept case numbers low but costs skyrocketing.

The economy contracted in the three months to June from the previous quarter as factory activity and consumer spending plummeted. The ruling party has not said it will meet its official 5.5% growth target this year.

Zhang Chenggang of the Capital University of Economics and Business said the traditional labor market was disrupted by repeated lockdowns that closed factories and offices in Shanghai and other industrial centers for weeks at a time.

Companies are “draftically reducing their hiring needs” because of their “life-saving mindset,” Mr Zhang said.

“In the future, we will face technology challenges,” he said. “Labor market uncertainty is likely to increase further. So the most important thing for college students is the ability to adapt.”

Uncertainty looms over many industries. Internet companies are losing jobs after the ruling party tightened controls by launching data security and antitrust probes.Real estate is falling after regulators crack down on the use of debt.

Tao Yinxue, a 2021 graduate, dropped out of an internship at an educational institution before graduating, worried that a government crackdown on the industry had taken tens of thousands of jobs.

In April, she quit her job at a financial company after noticing it was promoting cryptocurrencies and knowing that it “isn’t really legal in our country.”

“Students tend to seek stability,” said Liping researcher Xing Zhenkai.

Two out of five graduates surveyed want to work for a safer, government-backed state-owned enterprise, Xing said.

Tao is looking for another job while preparing to take the civil service exam in Anhui province, west of Shanghai. She sent over 120 of her resumes and online she contacted nearly 2,000 potential employers.

With fewer posts and more job seekers, “companies can become more selective,” Tao said. “They would prefer someone with experience to a novice like me.”

Other graduates are procrastinating work, choosing to stay in school or take civil service exams that may pay less than in the private sector but offer stability and social status, Zhang said. rice field.

Frustration over fierce competition for government-backed jobs erupted into outcry online when pop star Jackson Yi, also known as Yangqianxi, appeared on the China National Theater shortlist.

Chinese on social media, including Yee fans, questioned whether Yee abused his celebrity privileges in the hiring process to land a position that was a bonus to him but a real break for other candidates. I wondered.

Yee has denied receiving special treatment, but has announced that it will relinquish the position.

Antivirus measures have canceled in-person job fairs and postponed civil service exams, putting hundreds of thousands of people into jobs each year.

Fang Zhiyou, an accountant graduate from central Hubei province, said the postponement of the civil service exam from March to July hindered his job search. She’s waiting to find out what happened to her.

“Without the pandemic, my exams would not have been delayed and I would not have been struggling for so long,” Fang said. “I hate pandemics forever.”

Fang would rather work in the government, but said he would also accept a job in accounting for a manufacturer.

The number of graduates has surged after an initiative launched in 2019 ahead of the pandemic to increase training in technical skills that the government said was “urgently needed”. More job seekers are expected to enter the labor market in the coming years.

“If there is no work this year, next year will definitely be difficult,” Fang said.

Associate Press video producer Olivia Zhang of Beijing and researcher Chen Si of Shanghai contributed to this report.

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