GAO LING:Higher education reform to ease graduate unemployment

By / 04-02-2014 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

Among concerns of structural adjustments, the promotion of fairness and improvement of quality that have touched all segments of society in recent years, an issue that has come to the fore is the unemployment rate among recent graduates. During the recently concluded Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People's Congress (NPC), NPC Deputy and Vice-president of Northwest University Gao Ling submitted a proposal “to strengthen the cooperation of universities and corporations and ease the pressure created by graduate unemployment.”


Graduate unemployment is a very real social problem, said Gao.


While the number of Chinese college graduates keeps increasing, the demand for them in the labor market has stagnated. China’s economic slow-down, sustained increases in total employment, and prominent structural problems all contribute to the difficult situation in job market.. There are about nearly seven million college students graduated in 2013, an increase of 0.19 million from 2012 and of 1 million from 2009.


On the other hand, companies are struggling to find personnel suitable for open positions in spite of paying substantial recruitment costs. Statistics from China Enterprise Directors Association show that small and medium-sized companies’ recruitment expenses have surged over the last several years, even for ordinary positions. Fewer than 10% of graduates granted interviews actually get the jobs, while as few as 30% of new hires make it through the probation period. Additionally, the turnover rate has climbed past 60%.


Neither companies nor universities are without blame in this situation though. Part of the difficulty companies face in their recruitment process may be reflection of what they have to offer potential employees, either in terms of poor future prospects or an inadequate salary and benefits. At the same time, their expectations of employees may be misplaced, or the available talent may just not be suited to their needs. For their part, graduates need to adjust to a much more competitive job market, as the increase in university enrollment has changed the relationship between supply and demand. Currently, there is a relative surplus of degree-holders but a lack of skilled labor. Another problem is that universities are not updating their professional facilities in pace with the demands of the job market. 


Improving the poor job prospects for graduates and talent crunch for companies will require coordinated efforts from all sectors of society.


The first step is to restructure higher education generally, shifting it toward a greater concentration of technical and vocational programs. Additionally, favorable policy and incentive mechanisms will help foster creativity, while enhancing career services and career training will help prepare graduates for the job market.


For the companies, to guarantee their employees are adequately prepared, they should put in place complete personnel training systems. Furthermore, to make sure the best employees are promoted and increase the overall cohesiveness of their teams, companies should establish long-term incentive mechanisms.


Closer cooperation between universities and enterprises is also necessary to ease the pressure created by graduate unemployment. Both sectors should work together to reform talent cultivation within universities.


Gao Ling is deputy to the NPC, vice principal of Northwest University in China.

The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 568, March 7, 2014

Translated by Bai Le

Revised by Charles Horne