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Epidemic Slashes Job Opportunities in Shanghai
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has slashed a lot of job opportunities in local service sectors and cast a shadow on job hunting for university students - particularly those due to graduate in July.

Many exhibitions have been cancelled, many hotels have fewer guests and some restaurants have been forced to close because of SARS.

"At least 15 exhibitions have been called off," said Zhuang Yan, spokeswomen of Intex Shanghai Co Ltd, one of the major exhibition companies in Shanghai.

The slump in business has led the company to scrap its previous plan of recruiting new staff this year, she said.

According to Chen Xieyuan, an official with the Shanghai Tourism Administrative Commission, local hotels suffered a combined loss of more than 20 million yuan (US$2.4 million) in a sample week last month.

At present, most hotels are retaining as many staff members as possible by adjusting salaries and urging some employees to take vacation on reduced pay.

The gloomy employment situation is highlighted by the fact that more than 30 percent of graduates of Shanghai Jiaotong University - one of the city's most famous colleges - are yet to find a job.

"The situation is not optimistic," said Fei Yifang, director with the school's career guidance center - a department in charge of student employment issues. "The job-hunting plans of these students have almost been suspended due to SARS," said Fei.

The employment rate in the same period last year was nearly 80 percent.

Anti-SARS measures have restricted the movements of students, leaving those without jobs to look for vacancies on the Internet.

The Shanghai Municipal Educational Commission has joined with the Shanghai Personnel Bureau to provide online job opportunities and even interviews between students and employers via the web, said a spokeswoman surnamed Wang with the education commission.

But she admitted part of the procedure still needs to be finalized and face-to-fact contact is necessary in some situations.

But Wang Yang, an official at the city's social and security bureau, said: "In spite of the obvious negative effects of SARS, there is another side of the coin and that is the fact that the disease has created 10,000 job opportunities."

They are mainly in anti-SARS work, such as spraying disinfectant in communities.

(China Daily May 16, 2003)

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