7th December 2023 – (Beijing) As China contends with an uneven economic recovery, a record number of over 11 million college students are set to graduate in 2024. While authorities have introduced measures to boost employment, more decisive action is required to create adequate jobs and alleviate pressure on graduates entering a difficult job market.

The sheer volume of new graduates, up 210,000 from 2023, poses a significant challenge. China’s youth unemployment rate hit a record 21.3% in mid-2022, quadruple the overall jobless figure, before authorities halted release of the data. Surveys show companies plan to cut hiring due to uncertainty.

With graduates generally preferring white-collar roles, the imbalance between labour supply and demand in the services sector worsens structural employment issues. The anemic property market and weak private sector reduce job creation. Adding to the woes is the impact of recent crackdowns on formerly fast-growing industries like tech and education.

The result is intense competition even in once red-hot fields like semiconductors, with graduates sending hundreds of applications but receiving few appealing offers. Salary growth is stagnant and job stability uncertain. Many are furthering education rather than accept unsatisfactory jobs.

This complex environment demands comprehensive efforts to generate adequate graduate employment. Firstly, the focus must be on reviving the private sector to spur job creation. Transparent, predictable policies that remove distortions are essential to restoring business confidence. The dynamism and innovation of small and medium enterprises, rather than state behemoths, holds the key to growth and employment.

Advanced manufacturing and tech should be promoted while also energising traditional sectors. Vocational guidance can help steer graduates toward fields with demand. Government traineeships and positions provide a transitional bridge, but lasting solutions lie in catalyzing private hiring.

Universities have a pivotal role in preparing graduates for the modern job market. They should actively engage industry to align degree programmes with real-world needs. Offering career planning, skills workshops and company networking fosters employability. Liaising with firms to provide internships and on-campus recruitment further eases entry into the workforce.

Local authorities should harness big data to give graduates granular insight on vacancies, especially in less affluent regions. Perks like relocation subsidies and housing support can incentivize graduates to pursue opportunities nationwide. Where shortages exist in healthcare, education and other public services, tailored fast-track recruitment can fill urgent needs.

As a social safety net, unemployment benefits for new graduates can temporarily ease household pressures while job hunting but the priority remains pro-growth reforms to unleash private sector job creation.