By Liu Qiong, China Today

With 6.1 million graduates around the country, job fairs are always packed. 

After walking out of a job fair at Peking University, Che Xinglai shook his head disappointedly and told the reporter, "Nothing gained." Che Xinglai is a physics doctoral candidate from Tsinghua University, who will graduate in July. Like most of his classmates, he began crisscrossing Beijing campus job fairs at the beginning of the 2008 autumn semester.

By Liu Qiong, China Today

With 6.1 million graduates around the country, job fairs are always packed. 

After walking out of a job fair at Peking University, Che Xinglai shook his head disappointedly and told the reporter, "Nothing gained." Che Xinglai is a physics doctoral candidate from Tsinghua University, who will graduate in July. Like most of his classmates, he began crisscrossing Beijing campus job fairs at the beginning of the 2008 autumn semester.

Che hopes to find a job as a teacher or general staff member at a Beijing university. Compared with other students, he is in a fortunate position, since he already has an offer from a university in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province. But his girlfriend works in Beijing, so he is still looking for a job in the capital. "Doctors from our school had little difficulty finding a job in a Beijing university in the past, but this year the number of universities with recruitment plans has declined, and some even have canceled their original plans." In such a gloomy job market, Che Xinglai has little choice but to keep on searching.

A Grim Market Awash with Graduates

If universities are suffering the effects of the financial crisis, enterprises are encountering an even bigger impact. Since the end of 2008, many enterprises have shrunk or cancelled their annual campus recruitment drive. Some real estate tycoons like R&F Properties, Evergrande Real Estate Group and Mayland Lynch Foundation have cancelled their campus recruitment, while of China's four leading banks (Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Construction Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), only three of them have stuck to their original plan. And stock companies have almost stopped recruiting altogether.

At the beginning of 2008, E Fund Management was still booming. The company even assigned HR specialists to America looking for overseas recruits, regardless of the high costs involved. But as business declined, campus recruitment has been slashed. Meanwhile, some other famous companies like Citic Securities and China Jianyin Investment Securities have ceased all employment projects after the financial blowout.

Opportunities with enterprises in export manufacturing and trade fields are even more bleak. Affected by the international financial crisis, private enterprises around the Zhujiang River Delta and the Changjiang River Delta, which employed 34.2 percent of university graduates in 2007, went into a recession in the very beginning of 2009.

At the same job fair Che Xinglai attended, Huo Jingying, supervisor of the HR department of Wuxi Zhiwei Technology, got over 80 resumes in the morning session alone. With two years' recruitment experience, she has noticed obvious differences this year, with graduates much less picky about job locations and salaries. "Perhaps they have some idea from the media that the financial crisis means the job market is grim." Recently, Tencent Web did a survey on university students' job expectations. There were 20,000 replies, with bachelor graduates expecting a monthly salary between RMB 1,000 and 2,000.

On the same day as the job fair mentioned above, the "Forum on Financial Crisis, Expanding Domestic Demand and China Economy Strategy" was held at the China Strategy Studies Center of Peking University. The president of Peking University Zhou Qifeng said: "Under the financial crisis, finding employment for graduates becomes one of the hardest nuts to crack, and we are trying to find the best way to help them."

Figures from the National Statistics Bureau show that there will be over 6 million graduates in 2009. With 4.8 million graduates still unemployed from recent years, the number of graduates seeking employment in 2009 will soar to over 10 million.

Job Security Is the New Priority

Ten years ago, universities and colleges began to expand their enrollments, and every year since then their graduates have seen a "grim" job market. According to official statistics, the number of graduates in 2006 was five times that of 1999. This year the situation is even worse, for it is the first time that a global financial crisis has afflicted China since reform and opening-up commenced in the late 1970s.

The attraction of foreign-funded enterprises has waned due to layoffs and pay cuts, pushing more graduates to seek public service roles. "The current employment situation in the finance field is somber. Becoming a public servant seems more stable, regardless of the middle-level incomes and social securities," says Tang Yuan, a finance major at Renmin University. She has just finished two examinations conducted by the Finance Ministry of China and the People's Bank of China respectively.

The 2008 Report on the Recruitment Situation of University and College Graduates published by Shanghai Foreign Service Co., Ltd. shows that since the global financial crisis, job security has now become graduates' main concern. This point has been proven by the 1,040,000 applicants that have signed up for the 2009 National Civil Servant Recruitment Examination to compete for the 13,566 vacancies in government departments, a chance of 1.3 percent. Each position has an average of 78 people competing for it, a substantial increase over last year's 60:1. Netizens consider it the cruelest competition in history.

At the same job fair, Li Junkai held the best booth at the entrance to the hall. She does not represent an enterprise, but is the deputy director of the Peking University Job Center. She says it is understandable that university and college graduates are exploring different options, and state organs and public service units have been attracting large numbers of applicants. If one gets the chance, one should be prepared to work in this kind of unit. However, it is unrealistic to think all the graduates can pile into government organizations, and the competition will be increasingly tough. At this time, taking the exam for postgraduate study or going abroad for further study are both advisable. Peking University Job Center offers seminars on career planning and job consultations in order to broaden students' minds.
 
Don't Be Blind Nor Pessimistic

"Graduates should be objective in facing the current job market. Changing pressure into motivation, lowering expectations, enhancing work capabilities, and willing to start from the lowest position may allow graduates to catch more work opportunities," suggests Li Junkai. She says graduates must fling away blind or pessimistic emotions. Due to national strategies, some domestic pilot units are still capable of expanding their recruitment. "China Telecom, China Mobile, and the Large Civil Aircraft Project of China Commercial Aircraft Co., Ltd. all state that their recruitment quotas this year will be significantly increased."

Moreover, some joint-venture enterprises will maintain their investment increase in China and expand staff quotas. There are still some industries feeling less impact from the downturn, like quick consumables and tertiary industries.

Li Junkai holds that the basic aspects of the Chinese economy have remained unchanged, and its impetus still powerful – an essential guarantee for graduates to find jobs. Meanwhile, several bailout plans to expand domestic demand have been implemented, which will see a two-year investment of RMB 4 trillion. Although these new measures will take time to evince their long-term results, their positive effects on the job market is apparent.

"Active job policies must be carried out to make the employment situation stable." The Central Government Economy Workshop at the end of 2008 came up with this point as the main economic task of 2009. To overcome the challenge of the job market, the Central Government Economy Workshop did an unprecedented mapping out of relevant policies.

At the end of last year, at a symposium held at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Premier Wen Jiabao told students that before long the government would take a series of actions to promote graduate employment. Large enterprises, especially innovative enterprises, will be encouraged to expand recruitment. Institutions and universities should absorb graduates to work on their significant hi-tech projects. Relevant government departments should advocate graduates working at the grassroots units, taking further education and having more training.

The Ministry of Education cooperated with ten national organs like the Ministry of Railways and the Ministry of Commerce in organizing 13 cyber job fairs from November 2007 to June 2008. Vice Minister Zhang Xiaojian of Human Resources and Social Security says, "This year the main program is to organize Internet job fairs and spot recruitments. Accompanying this will be different kinds of activities, such as career planning, policy consulting, business start-up services and so on. We hope all these are helpful for graduates to find jobs."

Reprinted with permission from China Today (www.chinatoday.com.cn)

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