China: Junge Arbeitssuchende stehen vor großen Herausforderungen

Cheng Linggeng fürchtete den Eintritt in einen unsicheren chinesischen Arbeitsmarkt. Die Aussicht, als junger Mensch eine Beschäftigung zu finden, erschien sehr entmutigend.

China's young jobseekers confront challenges, seek new opportunities as economy undergoes profound transition

  • For fresh graduates, pressure has never been greater in their bid to secure a dream job, but some are cashing in as industries evolve
  • China is pushing to enhance its manufacturing and smart infrastructure sectors, opening doors for new jobs as a record number of students prepare to enter job market

Cheng Linggeng used to fear the grim and uncertain job market he was entering, as the prospect of finding employment as a young person seemed increasingly daunting.

He knows that a record 10.76 million college students are poised to graduate in China this year, further intensifying the already fierce competition resulting from an economic downturn amid the pandemic. He is also aware of volatile regulatory changes that led to crackdowns and slumps in the private tutoring industry, tech field and other private sectors.

But when the 22-year-old automation major started job-hunting, he found the process surprisingly smooth – he bagged three job offers out of the five positions he applied for.

"I haven't heard anyone [around me] saying they couldn't find a job," said Cheng, who is in his last year at Xian Polytechnic University. "The employment pressure is nonexistent."

He accepted a job offer as a solution engineer at Dahua Technologies, a video surveillance company, believing that the security industry will have a promising future thanks to China's bid to install more cameras in smart cities.

But for Guan Wei, who is in her final year at Nanjing Normal University and wants to work at an internet firm, the outlook for finding work appears more worrisome in light of last year’s regulatory crackdowns in tech that resulted in mass lay-offs, and she has concerns about future uncertainties.

To bolster her chance of success, she is trying to beef up her resume by securing a postgraduate degree, multiple internships and other safety nets such as a teacher's certificate.

With China's economy going through a profound and unprecedented transition, young jobseekers are among the most susceptible to the ebbs and flows that are reshaping industries.

Some, such as Cheng, are enjoying the fruits of China's push to enhance its manufacturing and smart infrastructure sectors, while others such as Guan are painstakingly preparing to get a leg up on their competition for jobs.

"A lot of ongoing changes are cyclic and don’t contradict with new employment opportunities," said Feng Chucheng, a partner at the research firm Plenum, in Beijing.

"I don't think the jobs lost in the tutoring sector are gone forever. After a comprehensive structural adjustment, there will naturally be new employment opportunities," he said, referring to the clampdown on private tutoring, which had long been a draw for millions of fresh graduates, but is now in a state of disarray that has left many without the job opportunities they had hoped and planned for.

Indeed, a number of emerging industries are getting more attention.

In the first week after the Lunar New Year holiday, open positions in warehouses and at logistics companies saw a 67 per cent surge compared with the same period last year on recruitment site Zhaopin, as companies resumed operations and a new hiring season began.

That rise is linked to the boom and continuous new developments in e-commerce, said Wang Yixin, executive director of public relations at Zhaopin.

Traditionally, Wang said, jobs in warehouses and logistics firms are often associated with positions pertaining to deliveries and distribution.

"But other than these lower-end positions, we’ve seen many open positions, such as in warehouse management, or robotics [and automation] system training," Wang said. "These are new directions where young people are headed."

Additionally, the recently concluded Winter Olympics sparked new interest in jobs related to sports, according to a Zhaopin report.

"The ice and snow industry is booming following the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics," it said. "Rapid expansions will be seen in sports services, such as sales and the manufacturing of sporting goods; the construction and operation of stadiums; and sports events and sports training. These are new sunrise industries with great development prospects that attract talent."

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) is considered by Chinese jobseekers as the most promising industry, followed by short-video production and live streaming, new energy vehicles, and medical research, according to the report. Virtual reality and smart-home industries also made the cut, with promising outlooks.

Intelligent manufacturing also looks to be an essential and booming component of China’s economy moving forward. The sector plays a crucial role in China’s ambitious plans to bolster infrastructure. These include expanding 5G networks, rail systems, intercity transport, data centres and AI, among others.

The world's second-largest economy predicted that it would need 9 million specialists in the field of intelligent manufacturing in 2025, according to a report published by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in 2020.

Duan Bixin, a 24-year-old project manager at Vertiv, a global manufacturer for infrastructure that enables vital applications for data centres, said he landed his job pretty easily in 2020, and witnessed his company riding the wave of the New Infrastructure Plan, such as by building data centres.

"We are extremely in need of new people," the former electrical engineering major said. "Thirty of us were hired out of school in 2020, and the number [reached] more than 130 a year later."

This year, the company will hire more than 300 recent graduates, Duan said.

Although China is pushing for vocational education among children to cultivate talent with high-end technical skills, no immediate results will be seen in the short term, and the pool for such talent looks to remain shallow for the time being.

To tackle the problem, Chinese entrepreneur Cao Dewang, the owner of Fuyao Glass who rose to international fame after being featured in the documentary American Factory, said last year that he will invest 10 billion yuan (US$1.58 billion) to build a new university – the Fuyao University of Science and Technology – with a focus on training highly skilled engineers for manufacturing.

More universities and institutions like his are expected to spring up, according to Plenum’s Feng.

As pressure indeed exists in the job market as a result of the shrinking capabilities of small and medium-sized companies amid the economic downturn, the government also said that it will also offer help to young entrepreneurs and a range of incentives for small companies to employ fresh graduates.

The list of preferential policies includes free, government-funded, start-up incubators; special loans with reduced interest rates; fee and tax cuts; and the possibility for college students to retain school credits while taking years off to start a business.

In addition, companies are also being incentivised to employ fresh graduates. Small businesses that employ a certain proportion of new graduates, as well as young people who graduated within two years but have been jobless, will be eligible for benefits and loans with reduced interest.

Despite a mounting number of China’s college graduates seemingly putting pressure on the nation's job market, population ageing and economic growth will help create additional space for them while generating new opportunities, experts say.

If China maintains an economic growth rate of 5 per cent in 2022, around 11 million new jobs will be created, according to a GF Securities report published last month. According to official figures, China created 12.69 million jobs in 2021.

Meanwhile, around 7 million workers will retire from the workforce every year from 2021-25, during the nation’s 14th five-year plan, according to government data.

So, even if a record 10.76 million college graduates all chose to immediately enter the job market, the gap will still not be fully filled. In fact, only 56.9 per cent of the class of 2021 chose to take a full-time job after graduation, compared with 75.8 per cent in 2020, according to a survey published by employment service platform Zhaopin in May.

"The current problem is not that we have too many college graduates – which we still don't have enough of – but that there is a mismatch between the unrealistic expectations of college graduates and the number of those who want to work in first-tier cities," Feng said.

"If each and every college graduate wants to work in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen, the job market will never provide enough to satisfy their needs."

Zhaopin data backed up that sentiment, showing that new graduates still show a preference in seeking job opportunities in first-tier cities. However, young people coming back from abroad are showing a growing tendency to work in second-tier cities, forgoing intense competition in exchange for better quality of life, Wang said.

Guan added: "It wouldn't be hard to find a job, but I assume there won't be so many that meet my expectations."

Quelle: South China Morning Post,, 02.03.3022