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University grads help create "job-hunting economy"
( 2004-01-28 13:57) (Xinhua)

Li Shaomei, a senior student of Beijing Technology and Business University (BTBU), has spent 2,000yuan (241 US dollars) on job hunting, including a mobile phone formore convenient contacts with potential employers.

Millions of students like Li in China are creating a "job-hunting economy" with a volume estimated at more than 1 billion yuan (about 169 million US dollars).

The boom of the new economic sector, still new to economists, has been a result of fierce competition in the job market for the 2004 university graduates, further compounded by adverse effects of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) last year.

As a newly coined term, "job-hunting economy" refers to variousexpenses borne by university graduates to secure a job, including resume design, formal suits for interviews, admission tickets for job fairs, and transport costs.

China will see 2.8 million college graduates hit the job marketin the summer of 2004, an increase of 680,000 over the same time last year. Experts conservatively estimated that each graduate maycontribute at least 500 yuan (60 US dollars) to the job-hunting economy, which, multiplied by the total number of graduates, will amount to more than 1 billion yuan (about 169 million US dollars) in total.

By 2005, the number of graduates is expected to reach a record 3.4 million, according to the Ministry of Education.

This number has sharply increased since last year, as a result of a large scale enrollment expansion scheme introduced in 1999 topopularize higher education to ever more youngsters.

However, "as the majority of new grads eye major cities of Beijing and Shanghai, job market competition there is ever more intense," said Vice-Minister of Education Zhang Baoqing.

To the surprise of many people, employment requisites have changed fast.

"Before, a diploma was enough to secure a decent job with a check enclosed," said Sun Lina, a master's student with Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), "but things have changed".

With her bachelor's degree, Sun was offered a job three years ago by a top-notch university in Dalian city of northeast China's Liaoning province, even before she had the time to design her resume.

With a master's degree three years later, she is stilling looking for a job. "I've spent some 1,500 yuan (181 US dollars) sofar, and the number will surely rise if I don't get an offer", said Sun.

"It is inevitable," said Jiang Xufan, a clerk in charge of college students in BFSU, referring to this increasing expenses onjob hunting, a common phenomenon in other Asian countries, such asthe Republic of Korea and Indonesia.

"Thrown into a job market saturated with degree holders, the graduates aren't willing to forgo any opportunity," Jiang said.

To the dismay of many new graduates, the oversupply of labor has also driven their beginning salaries down by an average 25 percent.

According to Zheng Daqi, an analyst with Taihe Enterprise Management Consulting, a Beijing-based human resources company, the beginning salary for a South China network device corporation for post graduates dropped from 7,000 yuan (843 US dollars) per month to 5,800 yuan (699 US dollars), while the monthly salary of a listed Beijing-based software company for college graduates plummeted by 2,500 yuan (301 US dollars) from the original 6,000 yuan (723 US dollars). Payments in other industries are even lower.

The rising number of graduates in China indicates a conversion from higher education reserved for the privileged few to one available to the general public, said Wang Dazheng, an expert on human resources management said.

"A booming job-hunting economy and lower beginning salaries will coexist for a long time to come," he said.

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