By Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — Liu Qian, job-hunting with a new master’s degree, said two employers interviewed her and then said the positions had been eliminated. Others asked her to take lower pay.
She is one of 11 million new graduates desperate for work in a bleak job market as anti-virus controls force factories, restaurants and other employers to close. The survivors are cutting jobs and wages.
“Am I not worth it?” Liu asked. “From the moment I started looking for a job, I felt as if my future were smashed by a machine, and I don’t know if I can piece it together.”
Liu, 26, said some employers balked 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) per month, according to Liepin, a job-hunting platform.
There were almost two graduates competing for every job opening in the three months ending in June, up from 1.4 the previous quarter, according to the China Institute for Employment Research and Zhaopin.com, another job-hunting website.
China’s job drought echoes the struggles of young people worldwide to find work in depressed economies but is especially sensitive politically in a year when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to extend his time in power.
Graduates often come from urban families who are the biggest winners from China’s economic growth, an important source of political support. The ruling party needs them, especially those with technical training, to start their careers to propel industry development.
Luckily, a publishing house hired Liu in late July, two months after her graduation.
The official unemployment rate in June for people aged 16 to 24 was almost 20%, compared with 5.5% for all ages. That is expected to rise once the latest graduates are taken into account.
Premier Li Keqiang, the top economic official and No. 2 in the ruling party, said in March the government hoped to generate 13 million new jobs this year but did not say how many might be lost to companies closing. Li said 16 million people were expected to be looking for work.
Li promised “pro-job policies” including tax and fee cuts totaling 2.5 trillion yuan ($400 billion) for employers.
One-third of companies surveyed between last March and this April said they plan to hire fewer fresh graduates, according to Liepin. It said 27%, most of them state-owned, would hire more and 18% had no plans to change course.
China’s unusually severe approach towards COVID-19 has kept case numbers low, but the cost is soaring.
The economy shrank in the three months ending in June from with the previous quarter as factory activity and consumer spending plunged. The ruling party has stopped talking about being able to hit this year’s official 5.5% growth target.
Repeated lockdowns that shut down factories and offices in Shanghai and other industrial centers for weeks at a time have disrupted the traditional labor market, said Zhang Chenggang of the Capital University of Economics and Business.
Companies are “slashing 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 may even increase. So for university students, the most important thing is the ability to adapt.”