China has pledged to pull out all the stops to provide more jobs for college graduates, the number of which is expected to reach record high levels next year, adding further pressure to an already bleak job market amid a fragile economic recovery.
Authorities will encourage the private sector to create more positions and ask the public sector to expand opportunities for college students to work at grass-roots organisations, according to a document issued by the Ministry of Education on Wednesday.
Beijing expects the number of university graduates to reach 11.58 million in 2023, an increase of 820,000 from this year.
China is under pressure to absorb new graduates to maintain social and economic stability, while the economy has been struggling to grow amid disruptions caused by draconian Covid controls.
The ministry urged university leaders to visit companies to better match students with post-graduation employment and organise recruitment events while maintaining pandemic controls.
The document also proposed to “give full play to the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in absorbing employment”, adding the government would implement favourable policies so these businesses could accept young people looking for work.
The ministry said it hoped to create extra positions in the healthcare, elderly care and social work sectors, while encouraging young people to work or start businesses in remote areas.
To speed up hiring, China will also abolish the employment registration certificate – a complex document that proves the transition from student to worker – which has existed since 1999.
A huge number of graduates are entering the job market while opportunities are shrinking. China’s National Bureau of Statistics released figures on Tuesday showing the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds in October was 17.9 per cent.
There are high hopes that micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) can absorb the glut of young jobseekers, as they account for 99 per cent of the country’s businesses and 80 per cent of urban employment. But SMEs are under pressure from stringent pandemic policies.
“[MSMEs] are the driving force for economic and social development and a major source of employment, but they are also the most vulnerable group at the moment because of their weak resistance to risk,” according to a report from the China Academy of Fiscal Science last week.
The job market is likely to remain bleak until next year, according to Mao Yufei, an associate researcher at the China Institute for Employment Research.
“There are still pressures and challenges to employment for the graduates of 2023, and they will see an extended job search and matching cycle,” said Mao.
Mao said there were still chances that China’s new manufacturing and modern services sector, including biomedicine, communications technology and integrated circuits could create places for graduates. The industry is growing and eligible for government subsidies.
China’s labour market is unbalanced, with a larger labour demand gap in western regions and huge demand for workers in the manufacturing sector, especially senior technicians, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
“[We] also need to encourage university students to change their job concepts and to reasonably adjust their job expectations based on the current employment situation and recruitment needs,” Mao said.