Unemployment of recent graduates is hovering at 50% in both China and the US. The lack of available employment for the best and the brightest is a symptom of what is wrong at a macro level with each of our respective economies. While the overall symptoms are the same, the disease, and its treatment, is acutely different.
The US is seeing a decrease in the number of high school graduates attending post-secondary education, while China is seeing a steady increase. Budgets are shrinking at US Universities while Chinese institutions are continuing to grow. The US lacks skilled scientists and engineers, whereas China lacks skilled workers. Most Chinese Universities are ill-suited to provide the necessary skills for students entering the modern workforce. In the US many graduates possess the necessary skills yet cannot find work due to a lack of experience.
In China there is much less consternation about this issue compared to here in the US. Our media reports paint the graduate unemployment problems in both countries as impending doom. In China there is some hand wringing over the issue, yet no sense of panic is evident in the unemployed graduates, the government, or society as a whole. While there are many factors at play in each culture leading to these different perspectives, there are three factors indicative of our different economic paths.
First, and possibly most important, nearly to a person Chinese graduates believe both their own and China’s best days are still to come. Whereas more than half of US students surveyed believe the opposite is true. Second, most Chinese graduate have little or no debt, compared to the US where the vast majority of graduates (70%) require student loans simply to pay for school. Third, even though many Chinese wish to obtain work on their own merits, it is still commonplace to rely on your family connections for employment opportunities. For US students part of going to college is learning self-reliance, therefore most students are expected to pay their own way in school and make their own way upon graduation. These three factors make the extraordinary unemployment rate of Chinese graduates less catastrophic to the individual and the overall economy.
China has many obstacles to face in the future including providing appropriate paying jobs to University graduates. However, China is in the enviable position of having time to deal with this issue. At home here in the US we also have many problems we need to address, now and in the future. However, we are faced with a smaller range of time, and options, to solve our University graduate underemployment issues. The massive unemployment rates of both our countries provide obstacles to future economic growth. How each nation deals with these obstacles will be telling in the success of our economies in the 21st century.
- China Job Market for Graduates Shows Economic Slowdown (unlikenews.wordpress.com)
- China: The paradox of foreign education (bbc.co.uk)
- Rules banning rampant academic cheating in China ‘lack bite’ (chinadailymail.com)