BEIJING : SOME 360 million Chinese [ a quarter of the population ] are between the ages of 16 and 35. Their gloom has profound implications for the future of China, its economy and the party's ambitions.

THE GRIND : It is not as if young Chinese STUDENTS do not work hard. From an early age they are facing enormous pressure to do well in school and ace China's notoriously tough university-entrance exam, known as guakao.

Nearly 13 million youngsters took it this year. Many of them will have spent years cramming at the expense of other activities.

YET there is a growing feeling among young people/students that no matter how hard they study or work, they will not be rewarded with a better quality of life. They speak of neijuan, or '' involution '' ,  an academic word used to describe a situation in which extra input no longer yields more output.

The idea was captured in '' A Love for Dilemma '', a popular TV drama released in 2021. In the show,  two characters liken the competition them in educational attainment to an unruly audience at a cinema :

Someone stands up to get a clearer view; which obliges everyone behind them to stand. Then people climb on seats and ladders. But in the end, despite all their efforts, no one is able to see the screen any better.

The data support this sense of neijuan. As the number of university graduates has increased, the number of jobs for which they are suited has not risen to anywhere near the same rate. It has not helped that a large number of youngsters who decided to extend their studies during the pandemic are also now joining the job market, creating an even  bigger surfeit of graduates.

One problem is a mismatch between the skills that graduates are acquiring from school and those required by employers. According to one academic study of Zhaopin, a recruitment portal, 39% of job-seekers in first tier cities had at least two surplus years of education, over and above those required by the jobs they sought.

Outside these big cities, the proportion was more like 70%. Tales abound on social media of educated young people taking low-skilled jobs, such as sorting trash. One cigarette maker hired students with master's degrees for its production line.

Young Chinese once dreamed of being lucky enough to get jobs in tech. Jack Ma, the idolised founder of Alibaba, proudly espoused a ''996'' culture, referring to a work schedule of 9am to 9pm, six days a week, often without extra pay.

But in recent years tech workers began to complain of feeling like drones with dim prospects [ made dimmer more recently with layoffs ]. During an online outpouring of grievances in 2019, Mr. Ma responded, perhaps unconvincingly, that ''being able to work 996 is a huge blessing.''

Many young people now seek poorly paid but more stable government jobs that were once scorned by ambitious types. About 2.6 million people sat exams for such positions last year, up from 1.4 million a decade earlier. Only one in every 70 got one.

The Essay Publishing on Jobs, continues. The World Students Society thanks The Economist.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!