Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Confessions of a Chinese graduate

When I was a kid, university graduates were as rare as unicorns, now they are more like popcorn: cheap and plentiful.

No big surprise, considering there are millions of fresh ones every year to join a large pool of millions of existing ones. All are desperate for white-collar jobs that are not easy to come by in China’s manufacturing economy. The problem of university graduates finding jobs has been debated in the media for at least a decade as a difficult social issue and it never improves.

My father is a cleaner at a local paper mill. In his mid-fifties without any professional skills, he works for 50 yuan a day. What can 50 yuan buy? Two cups of coffee at this not-too-fancy coffee shop in Beijing where I am typing these words. But if you are a college graduate and want to find a job in my hometown, you can expect to start with an even lower salary than my father. Earlier this year when I went back to my home village, my parents told me that a girl in the village had gone mad. Why? She went to college, where she studied English for four years, and the best job she could get was to peel shrimps with coworkers, who finished middle school and were at least four years younger than her.

So, a college degree, once a coveted holy grail, a glamorous passport to a fulfilled and secure life, has lost its luster, right? So people are shunning it and pursuing happiness through a different course, right? The fact is that despite the bleak financial prospects and diminishing advantages of being a graduate, the competition to become one has never been any more severe. Read More