College graduate salaries down, migrant worker pay up

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, November 24, 2010
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Recent graduates in China earn a mere 300 yuan ($45.17) more per month than migrant workers, according to research from the Institute of Population and Labor Economics.

Cai Fang, director of the institute, which is under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, announced his findings at the China Youth Forum over the weekend in Beijing.

According to Cai's research, starting salaries for college graduates have remained stable at around 1,500 yuan ($225.83) per month since 2003. However, migrant worker salaries rose significantly over roughly the same period, from an average of 700 yuan ($105.39) per month to 1,200 yuan ($180.67) per month.

"It's the first time China has faced such a situation," the Chinese language Beijing Times newspaper quoted Cai as saying.

Despite the fact that the nation's economy is booming, with GDP growth coming in at a robust 9.6 percent in the third quarter, recent graduates are hard-pressed to find good-paying jobs.

An estimated one-third of the country's 5.6 million 2008 graduates failed to find work in their first year out of school, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, labor shortages in manufacturing and construction have enabled migrant workers to demand higher and higher wages.

Industry watchers agree that market forces will determine where the jobs are and how well they pay.

"Starting salaries are decided by the market forces of supply and demand," said Xie Zheng, a Beijing-based analyst with the British staffing firm Antal International Ltd.

With the university student population swelling by as much as 30 percent a year over the last decade, there is a growing glut of recent grads unable to find work.

Conversely, demand for migrant workers is on the rise. "Big cities are suffering from a migrant worker outflow these days. That's part of the reason why the salary gap has narrowed," Xie said.

But some say degrees still have merit.

"Maybe starting salaries are getting closer, but trained college graduates may see far more opportunities after being in the workplace for several years," said Chen Xiaodan, an analyst with recruiters

According to Chen, starting salaries in Beijing for this year's college graduates are around 2,600 yuan ($391.44) a month. And both Chen and Xie agree that the hiring situation for graduates is significantly better than it was in the past two years.

"Salaries are directly related to personal abilities and skills, and that explains why college students sometimes are paid very little, while capable and diligent migrant workers make big bucks, which is quite common," Xie said.

"It is important for college students to stop thinking that they are the blessed ones - holding such high expectations when job hunting - because reality can be cruel sometimes," Xie added.

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