Chinese graduates face toughest job market ever

Chinese graduates face toughest job market ever

May 16, 2013 11:18am by Julie Zhu

While many Chinese of a certain age are reliving their college days through the movie “So Young”, the country’s students of today are facing the fiercest ever competition for jobs, with a record high number of nearly 7m graduates this year.

“So Young” – a nostalgic look at student lives and loves of the 1990s from actress-turned-director Zhao Wei – has successfully captured the collective memories of those who left campus all those years ago. But when they look at the pressures facing today’s graduates, they may be glad their own student days are in the distant past.

According to the ministry of education, 6.99m students will graduate from university this summer, 190,000 more than last year and the most since records began in 1949.

Tough competition and slackness in China’s economy have made 2013 what many in the media have described as the “hardest” yet for graduates looking for jobs. According to Shanghai Evening Post, the situation is even more severe than it was in late 2008, when the global financial crisis was at its height.The Post reported that by the end of April, only about 30 per cent of graduates had signed employment contracts in Shanghai, 10 per cent fewer than in previous years. In Beijing, the number is 26.6 per cent of college graduates and 36.59 per cent of postgraduates as of mid April, according to the Beijing Evening News.

“The situation this year is really bad, much worse than I expected. All the graduates feel it,” said Fred Dong, a 22-year-old graduate in international law at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. He told beyondbrics he had been looking for job since last September and sent out more than 100 resumes.

After numerous written tests and interviews, he eventually got an offer from a big commercial bank – to the envy of his college-mates whose future remains uncertain.

But Dong said being a banker wasn’t his first-choice job. “It doesn’t match my major or my personal interest [marketing]. But considering the current situation, employment first, then look for an ideal job,” he said.

Dong’s view is echoed by Deng Zhenhua, a postgraduate student at the prestigious law school at Peking University (PKU). “I tired to avoid the grim employment situation three years ago when I graduated from college. But look at this year’s situation, I realise I haven’t avoided it at all.”

Deng recently accepted an offer from a Beijing-based real estate company, where he has been an intern since last summer. “The company is always my backup option. I want to work for big SOEs or foreign law firms. But now, it’s the best I can get. The job isn’t ideal, but I need to feed myself first.”

At PKU’s school of government, things seem not so bad. Zhang Xiaodong, of the school’s student affairs office, says that despite the tougher climate for job hunters this year, his students’ final offers were “pretty good” – half of them would join big SOEs on graduation.

Zhang attributed the positive result to PKU’s unshakable position as one of the top two universities in China. The other is Tsinghua University, widely known as China’s MIT. “Our students stand out in the job market. So, the bad situation doesn’t affect the result too much,” he said.

Students from less prominent universities are likely to be more vulnerable. Lisa Liu, a graduate in business management from Beijing International Studies University, said after bombarding employers with more than 150 resumes, she finally got several interview chances from a few, among which Baidu, China’s largest search engine, was her favourite.

After five rounds of written tests and interviews, however, she lost the only position of management trainee this year to a Tsinghua student in the final interview.

Now, Liu has to leave the capital city for a job in Shanghai.

“I’ve never thought of leaving Beijing, where I believed there would be plenty of opportunities, and where my boyfriend is living.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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