Applied maths graduate Liang Huaxiao tried to land a job with one of China’s tech giants for two years. Then she tried customer service and sales. Then she applied for assistant roles in a bakery and in a beauty parlour.
Like a rising number of her highly educated peers, Liang keeps trading down to try and find a source of income in China’s worst youth job market on record.
Economists expect such examples to become increasingly common in coming years, as a glut of university graduates and a shortage of factory labour due to an ageing workforce deepen China’s job market imbalances.
Youth unemployment hit a record 20.4% in April, and a new high of 11.58 million university students are due to graduate this summer.
All are competing for jobs in what remains one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies, but whose manufacturing-heavy structure is increasingly out of step with the aspirations of its younger generations.
The industries most popular among fresh Chinese graduates, such as tech, education, real estate and finance, have all faced regulatory crackdowns in recent years. Some of the measures have been rolled back, but business sentiment has been slow to recover: private investment rose only 0.4% in January-April, while state investment rose 9.4%.