Despite China’s quick recovery from the pandemic, many local graduates are choosing state-backed jobs, or postponing their entry into the workforce. China was the only major economy to grow in 2020. But more than one year since the pandemic began, the class of 2021 still faces pressure from high housing costs, international travel restrictions and an intensely competitive environment.
In the last month, CNBC spoke with more than ten local and international students of mainland China-based higher education programs. Many of the sources requested anonymity so their names would not be associated with a foreign news organization. While these anecdotes don’t equate qualitative research, they reflect general employment trends for what is expected to be a record 9.09 million graduates in China this year. One 24-year-old who requested anonymity said she took an offer from a major bank in Beijing for job security. After the pandemic, companies that were too small or privately run didn’t seem as stable as state-owned ones, she said.
Many women in her graduating class also preferred jobs at state-owned enterprises, she said, noting male classmates tended to take jobs at technology companies, where the pay is higher but the hours far longer. The trend is nationwide. Chinese recruitment site Zhaopin found that 42.5% of graduating students said state-owned enterprises were their top choice for a job – up from 36% last year. In contrast, the percentage choosing the private sector fell to 19% from 25.1%. Students were less inclined to enter the workforce overall – the study found an 18.9 percentage point drop in graduates taking traditional jobs. Instead, more decided to freelance, take a gap year or pursue higher academic degrees.