Desperate for jobs, 15 graduating math students in China's capital have put themselves up for auction at the e-commerce site Taobao.com.
The 15 "recommended goods" have photos and resumes. Their "starting prices" range from 2,000 yuan (about 293 U.S. dollars) to 3,000 yuan.
"The price is our expected monthly pay," said Wang Danke, the web store owner and member of the graduating class in the Department of Mathematics, North China University of Technology in Beijing. "We'd like to 'sell' ourselves with our wit."
Among the 33 graduating students in Wang's department, 24 are looking for jobs. Seven have gone on to postgraduate study. Only two have offers from employers, said Wang.
Finding jobs for college graduates is a growing problem in China. It became an even harder task for the 6.1 million June graduates after the country began to feel the effects of the global downturn. Compounding the problem are 1.5 million graduates who failed to find jobs last year, a half-million increase from 2007.
For positions that offer decent pay or residential status in places like Beijing and Shanghai, hundreds of applications flood in for each vacancy.
"Most of the time, all employers know about you is what's on your resume, which is just one more piece of paper in a pile," said Wang. "After four years of hard study, our classmates feel like a bumper crop of oranges, with no one giving a bite." Thus, they turn to the Internet.
"My class is a class of elites: basketball captain, Olympic volunteer, versatile painter, and backbones of the student union," Wang's ad on the website proclaimed. "We just need a chance."
The sale was suspended for three days in mid-March, after Taobao.com became concerned about the possible illegal use of personal information. Wang had to get his classmates to provide notarized authorizations.
"We have confirmed with the students and their university that this is truly a method of job-hunting," said Zhao Jingpeng of the consumer service department of Taobao.com. "We decided to make an exception to our rules, given the tough employment situation."
Wang said his classmates were interviewed by headhunters Tuesday, who said they "admired the students' energy to act."
Chinese officials have told new grads they need to be flexible when looking for jobs. The State Council, the Cabinet, last month urged college graduates to seek work in smaller companies and said it would do more to help graduates start businesses.
China "will introduce flexible employment mechanisms to relieve the employment pressure created by college graduates entering the workforce," said a plan on national economic and social development for 2009, which was approved by the country's top legislature on March 13.
Wang said small companies or start-up opportunities "might find us" online, which wouldn't be the case at crowded job fairs.
Xiong Sidong, head of Fudan College at Shanghai's Fudan University, said Wang and his classmates should take a more serious approach to their job hunt.
"College graduates should have fixed career goals," said Xiong, "and e-commerce websites such as Taobao.com, where people shop for everything, are hardly the right places for them to find ideal jobs."
"Some illegal intermediary agents may also make use of the students' information," warned Liu Jiande, an official of the Shanghai Administration of Industry and Commerce.
(China Daily March 19, 2009)