Xiao Feng (alias) has interned in a local company in Shijiazhuang, a city southwest of Beijing, for almost one year, and hasn't made a cent.
She never complains about it because she wants to accumulate work experience in order to get a job she actually likes.
As a large number of college graduates finish the school year and step into the employment market, more and more feel the cutthroat competition when they are job-hunting.
"More and more college students in Hebei province have considered sacrificing pay today for a brighter future."
Xiao Feng is no exception.
China will see 4.13 million college graduates this year, Minister of Education Zhou Ji said earlier this year.
The results of a survey taken by junior college students in Hebei Province shows that many think work without pay is acceptable as long as the accumulated work experience results in good employment opportunities.
"What does it matter if I don't get paid, as long as I get a good job out of it," Zhengzhou University student Zhang Junli says.
Xiao Liu (alias) a graduate student at Hebei University says graduate students have to accept the zero-salary policy if they want to get a good job. "The competition is so fierce that we have no other choice but to accept it."
"I am quite lucky because I have signed a contract with a company unlike my poor fellow students who devoted themselves to interning but gained nothing," he says.
But some disagree with the zero-pay policy.
Zhang Xinyue, a graduate student at Heibei Technical University says "if we have contributed to the job, we should get the pay even though some of the students are focusing on accumulating experience."
One of Zhang's schoolmates Xu Yuntao argues that the zero-salary policy is not a precondition for a good job. "I won't work without pay, even if it means the only job I can get is in manual labor."
According to a survey, more and more qualified graduate students feel they have no other choice than to accept the zero-salary policy if they want to work. Data collected from 1,200 enterprises show that 34 percent of students demand a salary of 1,000 yuan per month (US$125).
According to some experts, more and more students are qualified for top-tier jobs when they graduate but competition is so fierce that they are forced to take jobs with little to nothing in terms of payment in order to enter the workforce. Many enterprises have taken advantage of this trend to get as much work from graduates as possible for as little money as possible.
Experts also say people will question the necessity of going to college. They will think going to school is useless if someone with a lesser degree can earn more money than someone with a higher level of education.
(China Daily June 1, 2006)