BEIJING, July 17 (Xinhua) -- With a record 8.74 million college graduates entering a labor landscape disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic, the Chinese government has tried hard to help the class of 2020 not just land jobs but also explore new possibilities.
China saw a relatively stable job market in the first half of the year, adding 5.64 million new urban jobs and completing 62.7 percent of the annual target, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Fresh college graduates, a special job-seeking group that requires attention and support, are faced with fiercer competition and more uncertainties this graduation season.
The surveyed unemployment rate among job seekers holding junior college diploma or higher degrees and aged between 20 and 24, the majority of whom are fresh college graduates, stood at 19.3 percent in June, up 3.9 percentage points year on year, NBS data showed.
More than 91 percent of Chinese university graduates polled by China Youth Daily and wenjuan.com said that they need more job-hunting support amid the COVID-19 epidemic, identifying inadequate chances to visit the potential employers, recruitment cutbacks and lower than expected salaries as the main challenges.
"My classmates and I have been sending resumes and preparing for job interviews and related written tests for some time, and we are all under great pressure," said Guo Qian, who has just graduated from the Wuhan-based Hubei University of Education.
FIGHT UNCERTAINTY WITH POLICY SUPPORT
To help millions of graduates like Guo, local governmental departments vied to create opportunities for employers to find their prospective employees more efficiently amid the combat against COVID-19.
Since the Ministry of Education (MOE) co-sponsored the online recruiting service platform "24365" in March, a total of 29 special online job fairs have been held, offering nearly 5 million job vacancies in fields including strategic emerging industries and health care.
By June 21, the platform had posted over 13 million jobs and received nearly 30 million job applications from graduates. A MOE survey that polled 1.05 million employed graduates showed that 24 percent of them obtained job information via the platform.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) launched a special program from April to July that aims at sharing job opening information nationwide more effectively, facilitating online resume submission, interviews, career guidance and vocational training.
The government also sought to create more job opportunities for college graduates while providing those not willing to work right after graduation with more choices, such as going to post-graduate schools, joining the army and becoming research assistants.
Over 400,000 graduates will be recruited as teachers of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools this year, as a way to increase job posts suitable for those just left college.
In addition, the MOE has arranged to expand postgraduate enrollment by nearly 190,000 this year.
Market entities were also motivated by the government to hire more graduates. State-owned enterprises, which are obliged to take more social responsibilities in difficult times, have pledged to offer more jobs to college graduates in 2020 and 2021. Micro, small and medium-sized firms that hire college graduates this year could enjoy benefits including a refund of their unemployment insurance expenses and hiring allowances.
NEW POSSIBILITIES IN DIFFICULT TIMES
Faced with the unexpected challenge brought by the epidemic, many Chinese college graduates have taken a less beaten track in their career pursuit.
"Compared with universities, research institutes and enterprises, I think the grassroots need me more. It is meaningful to go back to my hometown to do some practical work," said Nie Niansheng, a fresh graduate who returned to his hometown in Yunnan Province to work.
Nie is one of the 170 graduates from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, who chose to work at the grassroots level in the country's less-developed regions, although most of his peers prefer big cities to start a career.
Likewise, 118 graduates from China University of Petroleum-Beijing at Karamay, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, decided to take local primary-level positions in Xinjiang this year, aspiring to work with people from different ethnic groups for the development of the country's western region.
In support of the growing trend, China has rolled out a plan aiming to hire 32,000 people for community-level posts in education, agriculture, health care and poverty relief, up by 5,000 from last year, according to a circular jointly released by the MHRSS and the Ministry of Finance.
Another new tendency is the rise of entrepreneurship among college graduates, as the country's recent recognition of nine new professions, most of which are in the public health sector and emerging industries, is expected to bring more ideas to graduates considering entrepreneurship.
On the ground, a string of benefits is available to graduates starting businesses at the local level. In Qingdao, graduates can apply for up to 450,000 yuan (about 64,246 U.S. dollars) venture guaranteed loans besides receiving one-off allowances. Tianjin grants subsidies to graduates to reduce the renting costs for their businesses. In Chongqing, entrepreneurs can receive innovation and technology guidance from mentors.
Xu Zan, head of student employment center at the Central South University, remains optimistic about the job market for college graduates as the country has offered many policy-based jobs to shore it up.
"As long as college graduates stay optimistic and positive, constantly improve their skills and adjust employment expectations, they could all find suitable jobs," Xu said. Enditem