Despite the global economic downturn, a reported 68% of China’s more than six million newly minted college grads have already managed to find employment, according to an announcement by China’s Ministry of Education. You could, of course, have read that in a negative way and say that one third of recent college graduates have yet to find a job. However, the figures involved are breathtaking and dealing in percentages makes it much easier to grasp.
For example, according to the China Youth Daily, 4.15 million students from this year’s collection of graduates had found a job by July 1. That is nearly half a million more jobs than college graduates reported having at the same time last year which suggests that times are looking up.
On the other hand that leaves about two million unemployed college graduates to join the ranks of the millions of college graduates from past years who still have not located jobs. The glut in college graduates is a result of the expansion in university enrollment in China over the last decade that created a higher-education equivalent of the global credit bubble.
Chinese leaders are keenly aware of the potential perils of millions of disgruntled students. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has encouraged college graduatess to accept "grassroots" jobs – that is positions in rural locations that are generally less desired by students – and called on employers to create more jobs.
More than 600,000 college graduates have already signed on with government-sponsored employment programs, according to the Ministry of Education. One third of them will reportedly take part in the government’s "rural teaching position program," designed to reverse the shortage of professional educators in the countryside.
While cities are still the preferred destination for most Chinese college graduates, the economic crisis has increased the appeal of more attainable and less glamorous jobs in smaller towns and villages.
China Journal makes the suggestion that some of the figures may be less than totally precise. It mentions the potential need for some universities to inflate employment numbers to maintain critical scholarship funding. It reports that some skeptics have called into question the reliability of official employment statistics. Unconfirmed stories abound on China’s Internet about Chinese universities pressuring jobless graduates to sign phantom "employment agreements" before they are granted a diploma.