Despite China’s vast economic development over the past few decades, providing jobs for a country with the world’s largest population remains a big challenge.
As part of our series ‘China Footprint’, CGTN’s Jim Spellman traveled to Beijing to get a sense of how difficult it is to find a job.
Recent college graduate Chen Zhengting spends time at 706 Youth Space in Beijing, a funky spot where young people can hang out, do research and look for jobs. The young woman is searching for investment banking or venture capital positions, but is having trouble finding what she considers to be her ideal job in Beijing.
“The problem is it’s so competitive; there are so many excellent graduated students,” Chen explained.
Many firms require experience she simply doesn’t have, so she is teaching part time and working on learning new skills, hoping to become more attractive to potential employers.
92 percent of college graduates find a job within six months, but it can be a difficult hunt for the remaining 8 percent.
Wang Di is head of engineering at the Beijing office of career-based social networking site LinkedIn.
“The high tech companies grow very fast in the last 5-10 years, and a lot of college students want to join there,” according to Wang.
Getting in the door can be difficult, however. Employers search for not just what Wang calls “hard skills,” but also “soft skills” like innovation, ambition, passion and leadership.
The fast growing Chinese economy is changing the work place for employers and employees. Many workers can no longer expect to stay at one job for 10 or 20 years. In some high-tech sectors, workers change jobs every 24 months, so they must constantly learn new skills.
Those who can adapt, are the ones who thrive.
The government and some private companies also encourage people to connect globally, which opens the door to opportunities overseas, according to Wang.
But China’s employment situation is complex. Millions of farmers leave their villages every year, coming to cities and towns in the search for opportunity.
And as the economy has become more sophisticated, the requirements for migrant workers are changing as well. Many now want higher salaries, and employers are finding it difficult to fill positions if the work is hard and the pay is low.
Businesses also now want migrant workers with more specialized skills, which is a frustrating situation for many migrant workers with little education.
“If I had got a much higher education level, I would have taken up a job in the management team,” one of those workers, Li Shaohua told me. “However, due to the lack of education, I could only work here as a worker.”
The mass migration phenomenon is having a huge impact on China’s cities and countryside. Professor Gao Wenshu of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says the number of people moving is increasing every year.
“At the end of 2016, it reached 169 million. It’s massive. Some have worked in cities for over 10 years, 20 years or more. So they are still increasing,” the academic said. “However, the speed of growth is slowing down. We predict that in the next 2 to 3 years, the number of migrant workers will reach to a peak, then it may go down. ”
A lack of education prevents some from getting jobs or advancing, but steps are being taken to help migrant workers and employers. The government has spent a vast amount of money to train migrants, according to Gao, and as long as those in rural areas want to work in cities, they receive their training.
The government is also providing more educational opportunities for young people, providing more training for migrant workers, and helping older workers in their 40s and 50s adapt to the changing economy.
“The government set a goal: we will achieve a well-off society in an all-round way by 2020,” Gao said. “From our research, people are confident to achieve this China dream.”
Chen Zhengting continues to pursue that dream.
“I still have the dream to pursue a finance career, so I have never given up in this whole year since I graduated.”