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Grads still hopeful about job hunting despite depression

china job market

Xuan, a 24-year-old final-year student majoring in automation, is one of an estimated 7.5 million graduates China's universities will churn out this year.


But having grown up through an unprecedented era of economic growth and unbridled optimism, his cohort's ambitions are being confronted with a different reality: a Chinese economy growing at its slowest rate in their entire lives.


"I'm not too worried, and neither are my friends," says the tall and bespectacled Xuan, who hopes to find work managing production lines in the state-owned sector. "It just means we have to prepare better and look for work earlier; it's a matter of how far the job you land is from your dream job."


But China now produces seven times more university graduates than it did in 2000. The unemployment rate for Chinese youth with a university degree is higher than those without. And while far from reaching the dire levels seen in countries like Spain and Ireland, competition for good jobs is intensifying, even as China's top economic planning agency said on Tuesday it created 13 million new jobs last year – exceeding its target of 10 million.


Long-term watchers of China's economy insist that while fundamentally troubled, China's problems are chronic rather than acute and the likelihood of collapse is remote – especially when social stability and employment are at the forefront of the Communist Party's compact with its people. 


While trade and manufacturing figures have been disappointing for months, trade data released on Thursday were far strong than expected, boosting sentiment and helping ease concerns China's financial market turmoil could spill into the real economy.


Andrew Polk, a Beijing-based senior economist at the Conference Board, says the rest of the world was waking to the "China reality" that it is "growing more slowly than what the headline numbers say and that the challenges are more entrenched than many people thought".


And while volatility on Chinese equity markets may dominate attention, economists keep returning to China's credit bubble as the most insidious risk.


An obsession over the quantum rather than quality of economic growth – especially during the stimulus-fuelled global financial crisis years – has seen China saddled with overbuilt infrastructure and real estate developments.


"They're stuck in a rock and a hard place from a standpoint that they need credit to grow," Mr. Polk said. "But at a same time they need to continue not to build up credit so fast so they need to reallocate credit towards more productive means."



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