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One Million Graduates Face Unemployment in July
Almost half of China's university students, or some 1 million, will not find jobs after graduating in July, experts have predicted.

This is partly because of massive job losses caused by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, said Mo Rong, deputy director of the Institute of Labor Studies under the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

"The economic fallout of SARS has greatly added to the difficulty of addressing the worsening employment problem among university graduates," said Mo.

The employment rate for college students upon graduation was 65 per cent last year.

The job crisis has also been caused by the growing number of college graduates each year as a result of enlarged college enrollment since 1999.

The number of college graduates will reach 2.122 million this year, 46.2 per cent, or 670,000, higher than last year.

All these factors will greatly aggravate job shortages for university graduates, said Zhou Tianyong, a researcher with the China Central Party School.

Many organizations, and especially enterprises, have implemented job-freezes as a major effort to counteract the economic woes caused by SARS.

Zhou estimated that up to 2 million job opportunities might have been lost in hard-hit service industries including the tourism, retail, and transport sectors.

Meanwhile, the government has banned job fairs -- an efficient way for college graduates to find jobs -- since late April for fear of cross infections.

Many students were also denied opportunities to attend job interviews because of stringent controls over intra-provincial human movements to curb the spread of SARS.

As a result, even in top schools such as Peking University and Renmin University, only less than 70 per cent of the graduates have so far signed agreements of intention with future employers.

In Beijing, one of the worst affected cities, only between 40 to 60 per cent of university graduates have found jobs, said Chu Dongsheng, an official with the Beijing Municipal Employment Service Center for University Graduates.

He noted that only 40,567 job vacancies are now available in the capital city this year for about 112,000 university graduates.

The bleak job prospects have prompted governments at various levels to take a series of high-profile moves to alleviate mounting employment pressure.

On May 28, Premier Wen Jiabao chaired a cabinet meeting which urged local governments to give priority to the employment of university graduates.

On June 3, Vice-Premier Huang Ju told a special national video conference that the issue of generating job opportunities for college graduates closely concerns social and political stability in the country.

The General Office of the State Council, China's cabinet, issued a circular outlining a total of 11 plans to encourage government bodies, State-owned enterprises and private firms to hire university graduates. The circular asks local governments to provide small-sum loans to help university graduates start up their own businesses.

Those who fail to find jobs in six months can register as unemployed in their hometowns so that they can enjoy free employment services and local minimum living standard insurance, according to the circular.

(China Daily June 12, 2003)

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