China moves to solve graduate unemployment issue
www.chinaview.cn 2009-01-11 12:40:56   Print

    By Miao Miao and Ding Yimin

    BEIJING, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Finding jobs for college graduates is a growing problem in China. It became an even harder task for the 6.1 million June graduates after the country began to feel the effects of the global financial crisis in late 2008.

    Compounding the problem is around 1.5 million graduates who failed to find jobs last year, a half million increase from 2007, according to data from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS).

    So why can't they find jobs and how can China solves this problem? Three experts believe they have the answers.

    ENROLLMENT EXPANSION IN 1999

    In the mid 1980s, China's college enrollment rate stood at about three percent, lower than many developing countries. In the early 1990s, the number rose to five percent.

    Around 1999, the country's education department sensed the need to expand the college enrollment rate, said Lu Hanlong, director of Society and Development Studies of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

    "Part of the reason for this was a baby boom in the early 1980s. That's when China's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) ended and many young people went back to cities, got married and had children," Lu said.

    "About 19 years later, around 1999, it was time for the new generation to go to college. As a result, the grand expansion policy began," Lu added.

    The central government deployed many measures to expand college enrollment. It built more schools, hired more professors and offered more scholarships to poor students.

    As a result, in 1999, universities enrolled 1.59 million students, up 41.2 percent from the previous year. Since then, the numbers just kept climbing.

    In 2002, the college enrollment rate reached 15 percent. It rose to 19 percent in 2005. With 23 million students going to college, China had the highest enrollment rate in the world at the time.

    Lu said "the expansion policy was helpful for improving the nation's quality".

    However, so many students seeking higher education all at once had negative effects as well.

    "The grand college enrollment plan is one of the main reasons for the current unemployment issue," said Zhou Haiwang, deputy director with Population and Development Studies of Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

    "Although the number of jobs increased in recent years as China's economy boomed, too many graduates coming out at one time created a great pressure for the job market," Zhou said.

    "The policy had led to a degradation of teaching quality and conditions in universities as well", said Zhou.

    OUT OF TOUCH: SUPPLY AND DEMAND

    Supply not only outweighed demand, many employers questioned the type of education this boom of college graduates received.

    "At present many companies do not trust new graduates, who may have learned 'mountains of' theories but also lack practical abilities," said Wang Yi, associate researcher of Shanghai Public Administration and Human Resources Studies.

    "Thus many employers would prefer graduates from some higher vocational technical schools rather than college students," Wang said.

    "That's the 'supply and demand out of touch' problem, in China's employment market," Wang said.

    Wang suggested colleges should change their education models and set disciplines on a more useful and practical course plan.

    On the other hand, students should understand the country's unemployment issues on the first day they enter college.

    "Presently most of them enjoy their lives in college as having happy hour all the time. Only when they become a junior or senior student will they begin to think about their future vocational orientation, when it might be a little bit late for the issue."

    WORK EXPERIENCE AND TRAINING BASE PLAN

    As early as 2006, many local governments began trying to solve the unemployment problem, by enacting a plan which gave graduates work experience and training.

    The local government does the contact work and convinces enterprises to provide internship positions for graduates for about half a year. During that time, the government gives interns a small living allowance every month. After the internship ends, the enterprise may offer jobs to outstanding interns.

    For example, in 2006 in Fujian province, 58 enterprises offered internships to more than 6,000 graduates. Around 50 percent of them ended up getting hired. This year another 62 companies will join the program, according to a report from Guang Ming Daily on Wednesday.

    Besides enterprises, Wang suggested colleges should also use more graduates through an internship program. With large amounts of research funds, he said students should be paid while learning practical skills.

    "Graduates can stay at the college, do research as assistants and get paid by research funds. It provides convenience for both sides." It would also keep graduates out of an already flooded job market.

    SOCIAL JOINT WORK

    To solve the unemployment problem, the whole society needs to work together, said Wang Yi.

    First, local employment service agencies should have more cooperation between each other, such as networking agencies in Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin. They should collect more information about job openings for graduates in these cities, Wang said.

    Currently, only Guangxi, Jiangxi and Guangdong have networked their human resources agencies.

    Second, community organizations should provide more jobs for young people. Now, those positions are mostly filled by the elderly.

    "Having grassroots work experiences can be a great help for young people in orienting their future profession choices," Wang said.

    Finally, at this crucial time, "the major enterprises should shoulder more social responsibilities," Wang said. "It also helps in building a good social reputation for them."

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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