The year 2013 saw 7 million Chinese college graduates jostling for 9 million jobs alongside large numbers of overseas returnees and young people fresh from polytechnic, vocational and high schools. It was so difficult for them to land a job that it was dubbed “the hardest job-hunting season in history”.
That year, China’s universities had a student body of 6.99 million, up 19% from 2012, hitting another record high and making the employment situation worse for college graduates. Accordingly, the total number of these graduates signing employment contracts was lower than in the previous year. At the same time, battered by a gloomy economy, companies were running down their workforces.
According to a survey by MyCOS, a consulting firm in China, the proportion of polytechnic school graduates who got an employment contract was 35%, 9 percentage points down from the previous year. This was followed by college graduates at 38%, down 8 percentage points, and postgraduate students at 29%, a drop of 7 percentage points.
Li Yang, director of the China Agricultural University, says that there were only 9 million new job openings, a far cry from what college graduates had expected.
Li Yang recalls that back in 2003, the number of college graduates around the country totaled 2.12 million, while 8.50 million jobs were available, four times as many.With China’s GDP growing at 9.3%, the employment situation was fairly good.
In 2009, the number of college graduates soared to 6.10 million. To make matters worse, the financial crisis erupted. Thanks to the stimulus package and employment measures launched by the government, the country achieved 8.7% GDP growth and created 11.02 million jobs, twice as many as the total number of college graduates, thus helping them ride through an employment crisis that might otherwise have been sparked by the economic slide.
In 2013, with their numbers surging to 6.99 million, the country’s economy grew about 7.5% and added 9 million jobs, only 1.28 times the total number of college graduates, an all-time low. Meanwhile, the burgeoning ranks of prospective employees are further swollen by overseas returnees, as well as graduates from polytechnic, vocational and high schools, all joining the competition for limited jobs each year.
Slump in demand
In 2013, there were 25 million urban residents who were desperate for a job. The employment pressure further mounted with the total number of college graduates having grown by 1 million compared with 2009. As the economic slowdown spread, demand for labour was diminishing, most notably in the auto, machinery, electricity and financial industries. Auto and machinery manufacturers, banks and insurance companies that had previously flocked to recruit students from their college campuses dwindled to a trickle last year. Some even put their hiring plans on hold altogether.