Plea to make job hunt easier for graduates

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2009, 12:00am

The central government should do more to cut through red tape strangling the job market to head off looming problems for mainland college graduates wanting to enter the workforce as the economy falters, mainland analysts said.

In a push to address the problem facing many university graduates, the State Council issued a directive at the weekend urging regional authorities to scrap hukou, or household registration, restrictions on all college graduates.

The initiative came as authorities admitted that university graduates faced a tough time finding jobs this year amid a worsening economy.

A study by a central government think-tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, showed that 5.6 million college students graduated last year and 1.5 million failed to land jobs.

Graduates' prospects this year could be even gloomier, with a record 6.1 million students expected to flood the job market.

Rising joblessness among college students and the country's vast legion of migrant workers has alarmed the government because of the potential for social unrest.

The new State Council directive also makes a course on job-hunting skills compulsory for college students and promises to help 1 million jobless students gain work experience in the next three years. Analysts said that if the hukou barrier were removed, student job seekers could move about freely and settle where they found work.

However, education analyst Yang Dongping said the hukou initiative was still a form of 'a requirement' which low-level authorities in charge of household registration might not feel obliged to comply with.

'The problem is that it's not yet compulsory. It might not be as enforceable as the central government thinks,' Professor Yang said.

He cited a 2002 example when a directive was issued by four central government agencies, including the ministries of education and labour and social security, asking regional governments to remove household registration restrictions on college students seeking work.

Professor Yang said that in Shanghai, for example, only graduates from about 100 top mainland universities qualified for a Shanghai hukou if they secured a job, while others without the all-important residential registration were denied social welfare benefits in the city.

Some other cities had even more stringent curbs on out-of-town job seekers, including college students, he said.

'All the administrative restrictions must go if the government wants to make more jobs available to college students,' Professor Yang said.