Develop tertiary industry to help graduates

Updated: 2013-07-19 07:08

By Wang Yiqing (China Daily)

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In May, the Ministry of Education said college graduates would find it more difficult to get a suitable job this year. It had reason to say so: only about 30 percent of college graduates in the three first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou had landed a job until May 1. The situation has improved in the past two and half months but is still not satisfactory.

The condition of the job market has forced graduates to drastically lower their salary expectations even in the face of rising commodity prices. According to the 2013 Chinese College Graduates Employment Pressure Report, graduates' salary expectation has dropped from 5,537.5 yuan ($902) in 2011 to 3,683.6 yuan in 2013. No wonder, the media say "this is the most difficult year for college graduates to find a job".

The plight of graduates in the job market even prompted Premier Li Keqiang to say at a State Council executive meeting on May 15 that measures should be taken to solve graduates' employment problem.

Many people say the employment rate of graduates is low because the number of graduates produced every year has increased dramatically. For example, universities in China churned out a record 6.99 million graduates this year, and in such a situation there is bound to be surplus manpower in the job market.

But the proportion of college graduates (or those with even higher education) in China's population is not that high. According to the Sixth National Population Census, conducted in April 2011, the number of people with a college diploma (or higher degree) was 119.64 million, which is less than 9 percent of the total population. This proportion is markedly lower than that in developed countries such as the United States and Japan.

The main reason why graduates find themselves as surplus manpower is China's unbalanced industrial structure. Generally speaking, tertiary industry absorbs most of the college graduates because it offers much more knowledge-intensive positions compared with primary and secondary industries. A well-developed service industry is one of the key indicators of the transformation of a country's economic structure toward a post-industrialized society, which should be China's ultimate development goal. But China's industrial structure is far from ideal.

To begin with, tertiary industry's share in GDP is low, and falling. According to China Statistical Yearbook, tertiary industry accounted for 43.7 percent of GDP in 2012, compared with 45.2 percent in 2006, 46.3 percent in 2007 and 45 percent in 2008. In developed countries, the percentage is generally more than 60 and even 70. For example, in the US, tertiary industry accounted for 79.6 percent of GDP in 2012.

Moreover, the jobs that China's tertiary industry offers are concentrated in basic service fields that don't require special knowledge and skills, and the market for high-end, knowledge-intensive and creative talents is still quite limited.

Another major problem is that China is still a labor-intensive economy, and the shortage of migrant workers in many areas and low employment rate of graduates prove that. For years, the contribution of secondary industry to GDP has been as high as 50 percent, even more. In recent years, the government's investment in infrastructure has facilitated the further development of secondary industry, especially the iron and steel, construction material and heavy machinery sectors.

In contrast, tertiary industry's financing volume and its ability to provide jobs declined, even if only slightly.

The authorities know how important the transformation of the industrial structure, which includes the development of tertiary industry, is for the country. In fact, they have taken measures to stimulate the transformation, but it could still take decades to become reality.

China will certainly become a knowledge-based economy led by a strong tertiary industry someday, but college students cannot wait until then to find suitable employment.

Since the low graduate employment rate is an economic structural issue, the most pressing problem for graduates now is to get a suitable job, not any job. Given the situation, graduates have to change their perception about jobs. For instance, why should they always try to work in an office? Why can't they take up a position in a factory? Or, why can't they try their hand at business?

The secret to success is to set a goal, no matter which field it is in, and work until it is achieved. Perhaps graduates should rethink what a good career is and adapt themselves to the changing situation.

The author is a writer with China Daily.


(China Daily 07/19/2013 page9)