As China’s financial system picks up, new faculty graduates are nonetheless in search of jobs

Graduates attend the opening ceremony at Beihang University in Beijing, capital of China, on June 29, 2020.

Ren Chao | Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

BEIJING – As China continues its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, new college graduates are still trying to catch up.

According to official data and third-party reports, the 2020 class – with a record high of 8.74 million students – is finding it harder to find a job than last year’s graduates.

There has been a significant drop in attitudes in consumer goods, manufacturing, software and information technology due to the spread of Covid-19, according to a report on the outlook for China’s new graduates. The report “Insights into University Alumni: Perspectives for Career Development for Chinese Graduates in 2020” was released on Thursday by LinkedIn China and the Beijing-based Think Tank Center for China and Globalization (CCG).

On the flip side, the health care, distance learning and law industries were less affected by the pandemic, and the numbers they hired have remained relatively stable, the report said.

In fact, the analysis found that there was a lack of talent in the fields of transportation and logistics, media and education.

Covid-19 first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, before rapidly spreading across the country in January and February. Authorities temporarily closed more than half of the country in February.

The outbreak stalled domestically in March, but by that time the coronavirus had spread rapidly overseas in a global pandemic. China’s economy contracted 6.8% in the first quarter. While officials are optimistic about the subsequent recovery, they remain cautious about uncertainty about the continued spread of the coronavirus overseas.

There will be more and more returnees (studying abroad) … In order for them to return to China to find work, they face many challenges.

Miao Lu

Vice President, Center for China and Globalization

“There are certainly many college graduates still looking for jobs, and the 2021 class will soon be entering the job market,” said Zhang Ying, director of the Department of Employment Promotion at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, on Wednesday, according to a CNBC Translation of her Mandarin comments.

Zhang said the government will continue to add political support, including expanding hiring by state-owned companies. She found that the public sector accepted 2.8 million of the graduates.

Graduates attend the opening ceremony at Beihang University in Beijing, capital of China, on June 29, 2020.

Ren Chao | Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that the unspecified unemployment rate for 20-24-year-olds with at least one college degree – mostly new graduates – was 4 percentage points higher in September than a year ago, although it fell slightly in August .

Overall unemployment in urban areas, as measured by an official survey the accuracy of which many economists doubt, found the rate fell from 5.6% in August to 5.4% in September. It is anecdotal that many workers have cut or postponed their wages. The statistics bureau said late last month that many of those who lost their jobs during the coronavirus are not necessarily unemployed.

Chinese graduates return from overseas

Regardless of the challenges remaining, China is likely to be the only major economy growing this year, while the world as a whole will shrink, according to International Monetary Fund projections. At the same time, a more restrictive policy on cross-border travel and study abroad, especially for Chinese in the US, calls into question a lucrative trend.

The LinkedIn and CCG study examined more than 218,000 graduates from top 10 Chinese universities from 2014 to 2019 and found that more than 70% chose to study abroad, but of that group more than 80% returned to work in China. The study found that Huawei was the top company of choice, followed by Tencent and Microsoft.

“There will be more and more returnees (studying abroad),” said Miao Lu, CCG co-founder and vice president, in a telephone interview, according to a CNBC translation of her Mandarin remarks. “In order for them to return to China to find work, they face many challenges … although new industries have emerged since the coronavirus pandemic.”

She believes that overseas-educated Chinese will keep a head start in a China that has still expressed a willingness to further open its economy to foreign companies. “Right now, the shock for students abroad is pretty big … but we still think that going overseas is very important,” she said.

Other business opportunities

For many other college graduates in China, they are turning to other business trends that have emerged domestically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The delivery platform Meituan said in a report in July that 2.8% of delivery workers were fresh graduates in the first half of the year, and 20.5% had at least a bachelor’s degree. Of the total drivers, nearly a quarter, or 24.7%, had graduated from an institution, including vocational schools, compared to 18% a year ago.

Separately, Alibaba’s logistics company Cainiao said that in March and April, more than half of the managers who joined the tens of thousands of new package pick-up stations were sole proprietorships, including homeowners and students. The other half switched from traditional courier stores, convenience stores, and other small grocery stores, the company said. Updated figures were not available as of October.

Station manager Yang Zhanxiang started operating a Cainiao pick-up post in front of a university in western Qinghai Province early last year. He said Thursday that parcel volume had already exceeded last year’s figure by about 30%, and he intended to hire several students to do temporary work around the shopping vacation on Singles Day on November 11th.

Next year, Yang said he intends to open a new parcel station at a different school that will require more workers.

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