Chinese youth face sluggish job market as COVID slows economy

BEIJING (AP) — Liu Qian, looking for a job with a new master’s degree, said two employers interviewed her, then said the positions were cut. Others asked him to take a lower salary.

She is one of 11 million new graduates desperate for work in a sluggish job market as virus checks force factories, restaurants and other employers to close. Survivors cut jobs and wages.

“Am I not worth it?” asked Liu. “From the moment I started looking for a job, I felt like my future was shattered by a machine, and I don’t know if I can put it back together.”

Liu, 26, said some employers hesitated when she asked for a monthly salary of 8,000 yuan ($1,200). The average graduate last year was paid the equivalent of 9,800 yuan ($1,500) a month, according to Liepin, a job search platform.

According to the Chinese Institute of Employment Research and, another job search site, there were nearly two graduates competing for each job posting in the three months ending June. against 1.4 in the previous quarter.

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China’s job shortage echoes the struggles of young people around the world to find work in depressed economies, but is particularly politically sensitive in a year when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to extend his term.

Graduates are often from urban families who are big winners in China’s economic growth, an important source of political support. The ruling party needs them, especially those with technical backgrounds, to start their careers to propel the development of the industry.

Luckily, a publishing house hired Liu at the end of July, two months after he graduated.

The official unemployment rate in June for people aged 16 to 24 was nearly 20%, compared with 5.5% for all ages. This should increase once the latest graduates are taken into account.

Premier Li Keqiang, a top economics official and the ruling party’s No. businesses. Li said 16 million people are expected to look for work.

Li promised “employment-friendly policies,” including tax and fee cuts totaling 2.5 trillion yuan ($400 billion) for employers.

A third of companies surveyed between last March and April said they planned to hire fewer new graduates, according to Liepin. He said 27%, mostly state-owned, would hire more and 18% had no plans to change course.

China’s unusually tough approach to COVID-19 has kept case numbers low, but the cost is skyrocketing.

The economy contracted in the three months to June from the previous quarter as factory activity and consumer spending plunged. The ruling party has stopped talking about being able to meet the official growth target of 5.5% this year.

The repeated shutdowns that shuttered factories and offices in Shanghai and other industrial hubs for weeks have disrupted the traditional labor market, said Zhang Chenggang of Capital University of Economics and Business.

Companies are “reducing hiring needs” due to a “life-saving mindset”, Zhang said.

“In the future, we will face the challenges of technology,” he said. “Uncertainty in the labor market could even increase. So for university students, the most important thing is adaptability.

Uncertainties hang over various industries. Internet companies are shedding jobs after the ruling party tightened control by launching data security and anti-monopoly investigations. Real estate plummets after regulators crack down on the use of debt.

Tao Yinxue, a 2021 graduate, quit an internship at an educational institute before graduating, worried about a government crackdown on the industry that cut tens of thousands of jobs.

In April, she quit a job at a financial company when she realized she was promoting virtual currencies, which is “actually not legal in our country.”

“Students tend to seek stability,” said Xing Zhenkai, a researcher from Liepin.

Two out of five surveyed graduates want to work for state-owned companies that are considered safer and supported by the government, Xing said.

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

With fewer positions and more people looking for jobs, “companies can be more selective,” Tao said. “They would prefer those with experience over a green thumb like me.”

Other graduates postpone work, choose to stay in school or take exams for government jobs that might pay less than the private sector but offer more stability and social status, Zhang said.

Frustration over fierce competition for government-backed jobs exploded into an online outcry when pop star Jackson Yee, also known as Yi Yangqianxi, appeared on the shortlist of artist candidates at the National Theater of China.

Chinese audiences on social media, including Yee’s fans, have questioned whether he abused his celebrity privilege in the recruitment process to get a job that is a bonus to him but would give people a real chance. other candidates.

Yee denied receiving any special treatment but announced he would be giving up the job.

Virus checks have ended in-person job fairs and postponed civil service exams that lead to jobs for hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Fang Zhiyou, an accounting graduate in central Hubei province, said a postponement of her civil service exam from March to July disrupted her job search. She waits to know how she did it.

“If it weren’t for the pandemic, my exam wouldn’t have been delayed and I wouldn’t have struggled for so long,” Fang said. “I hate the pandemic forever.”

Fang would prefer to work for the government, but said she would take an accounting job for a manufacturer.

The number of graduates has increased following an initiative launched in 2019, before the pandemic, to increase training in technical skills which the government said were “urgently needed”. It is expected that more job seekers will enter the labor market in the coming years.

“If I don’t have a job this year, it will definitely be more difficult next year,” Fang said.

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

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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