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College students find money by 'selling time' online
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The economic downturn coupled with the pressure of finding employment after graduation has driven many college graduates to explore new ways of finding jobs.

Zhang Li, a sophomore student at a vocational school in the central Hubei Province, opened a Web store at Taobao.Com, a leading e-shopping Web site in China, to sell "her spare times," Hubei based newspaper Changjiang Times reported Tuesday.

She will stand in lines for you, if you hate waiting in too long a line; if you were tired, she could go shopping for you; she might buy you coffee, or a ticket -- the one you desperately needed ahead of the country's Spring festival when it took too much time and energy to buy one.

"I just want to sell my spare time doing meaningful things for others. I can earn some pocket money, or even more important, I may create my own business," Zhang said.

Finding work 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 affects of the global financial crisis.

Compounding the problem is around 1.5 million graduates who failed to find jobs last year, a half million increase from 2007.

Zhang has done two jobs since the opening of her store in early March, at a rate of ten yuan for an hour and 100 yuan for a day.

The first one came after a week after she opened the shop, and the "client" wanted to order a contact lenses online. Zhang spent two days on the Internet finding the proper type. She did not charge for the business since it was the first one and she wanted it to be a good advertisement.

Afterward, the new business gained attention and Zhang's second job -- shopping -- earned her 75 yuan.

In addition to her online store, Zhang also used chat rooms or online bulletin boards to make advertisements, which brought warm responses.

However, sometimes "clients" made strange requests, usually boys, asking her out for a dinner or movie, or even a date.

"I say 'no' to them. I think it's meaningless," Zhang said.

Some netizens thought differently about the business then. They commented that students should try to learn useful things during their college times instead of doing businesses.

But Zhang said "I can make a balance between my study and business, for doing business gives me many social experiences."

However, Zhang was not the first person to try tomato.

Chen Xiao, a SOHO girl from Hunan Province was the first one to open such store at Taobao.com last December. She made 3,000 yuan during two months with about 50 jobs.

Guan Mingyu, another "time selling" shop owner expressed worries about his safety. He said he did businesses only during daytime, and he rarely went out at night, for safety concern.

Tan Fang, a professor at South China Normal University said people should hold a positive attitude toward this new trend, while the law making department should keep a close eye on it, to provide timely supervision on it.

(Xinhua News Agency March 10, 2009)

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