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Unemployment High for Younger Workers

The All-China Youth Federation and the Institute of Labor Science, under the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, on May 24 published a first-ever report on the employment situation in China in relation to the country's younger workers aged between 15 and 29 years. The report shows that the unemployment rate among Chinese youth stands at 9 percent, higher than the social average of 6.1 percent.


A total of 7,000 young people aged between 15 and 29 years, and their employers in 220 enterprises were surveyed for the report.


Zhang Libin, a researcher from the Institute of Labor Science, said that the unemployment rate for Chinese youth stands at 9 percent, higher than the social average of 6.1 percent. He added that governmental departments and state-owned enterprises are the first choice for many job seekers.


Unemployment rate higher than the social average


The report says that China's large labor force puts a heavy pressure on the country’s employment. Moreover, available labor increases by about 20 million every year. This makes matters worse for China's younger workers because their lack of work experience makes it harder for them to compete.


Zhang added that having a higher unemployment rate among the young than the national average is not uncommon. This is the situation in many other countries. However, it is a cause for worry as it constitutes a serious social problem.


The report says that 80 percent of China's youth enter the labor market at the age between 17 and 23; 13 percent before 16; and only 2 percent after 26.


Among those who enter the labor market before the age of 22, some 15 percent already know what it means to lose a job.


Some 72 percent in chronic unemployment


The report also shows that 72 percent of those interviewed have been unemployed for more than a year. About 60 percent believe that the biggest obstacle to their finding a job is their poor educational background. Only 13 percent engage in further studies or receive vocational training while unemployed.


Among the jobless, 37 percent received vocational high school education, 30 percent junior secondary school education, 13 percent senior secondary school education, and 13 percent junior college education.


The ideal job


According to the report, 21 percent feel the ideal position is with a government department, while 22 percent think it is with a state-owned enterprise. About 20 percent hope to start their own businesses. Others hope to work in private enterprises or multinational corporations. The survey also shows that men are generally more eager to start their own businesses than women.


Differences can also be seen in the choice of ideal position between rural youths and their urban counterparts. For the rural youth, in order of preference: self-employment, state-owned enterprise, government department, multinational corporation. For the urban youth, in order of preference: government department, state-owned enterprise, self-employment, multinational corporation, private enterprise.


Only 10 percent were undecided.


A small portion of those surveyed don’t want to work at all, most of them having junior secondary school education and below.


Hot industries: IT and finance


If China's youth had a choice, their dream job would be in either the IT or financial industry, followed by the traditional stalwarts like manufacturing and the services industries, particularly in the areas of wholesale, retail, and public management. Hospitality, catering, public heath, social security and welfare were not top choices.


In reality, 70 percent work in the manufacturing industry, 15 percent take on low-level positions in the services industry, 10 percent are in community service, and 8 percent in IT and software development.


Rural youths tend to take on jobs in manufacturing, while their urban counterparts fill the positions in the services industry.


No job hopping


The majority of those surveyed are satisfied with their current jobs and 40 percent do not want to leave their jobs. Nearly 30 percent aren't sure if they will.


Rural youths tend to be more content with their jobs than their urban peers.


Among those who want to change their jobs, 63 percent would leave for a higher salary, 16 percent for better career prospects, 9 percent for better working conditions or job stability.


About 85 percent of rural youths would change their jobs for higher pay and better working conditions, while the figure is 69 percent for urban ones. Urban youth seem more concerned with career prospects.


Average working hours and monthly income


The report shows that working conditions aren't great for young people: little or no job stability, long working hours and low pay. Young people are hired mainly because they are a cheap source of labor. This is especially true for rural youths and the really young workers, that is those between the ages of 15 and 19.


In addition, 38 percent don't even have a signed contract, 20 percent have signed interim one-year contracts, and 36 percent have contracts for 1 to 3 years.


On average, they work 9.6 hours per day, or 48 hours in a five-day week. More than one-third works 50 hours a week. Rural youth and the younger workers work 53 hours a week.


As for monthly income, 60 percent are paid between 600 and 1500 yuan (US$72-181) a month. Only about 30 percent earn less than 600 yuan a month.


How qualified are they for the job?


"Young people are not good at writing", was a response many employers gave.


In the survey, the employers said few of their young staff could write well, had a broad knowledge of the world, or powers of application.


In terms of educational qualifications, 46.7 percent of the young people surveyed believe that a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, 28 percent believe a junior college education is sufficient, and 14.2 percent think a technical training background is adequate.


Zhang believes that today's labor market demands a higher educational background of youth hunting for jobs. Unfortunately for many, they simply cannot afford to be educated up to tertiary level. And this is a problem for a country that is already lacking in educational resources.


(Beijing Morning News, translated by Li Jingrong and Guo Xiaohong  for China.org.cn, June 7, 2005)


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