06/09/2009, 00.00
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Authorities fear high number of unemployed college graduates

China’s economic crisis is hitting college graduates hard for the first time. For many job anxiety leads to depression, but what concerns the government is that too many unemployed graduates might cause street protests.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A few months ago, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that about 12 per cent of last year's graduates had still not found jobs. This year more than 7 million college and university graduates are facing grim employment prospects and will have to fight for jobs with the 1.5 million graduates from last year who are still unemployed. And for many, unemployment will be such a shameful burden to bear that they will descend into depression or even take their own lives.

In an export-driven economy like China’s plunging exports have led to thousands of plant closures and weaker contacts with foreign firms. This in turn has reduced the demand for new graduates.

Growing unemployment among new graduates is becoming a source of concern for the government, worried that a large number of jobless college students might lead to disaffection and social unrest; a fear that is compounded by the fact that 25 million migrant workers have also lost their jobs.

China’s leaders are also quite cognizant that the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square began when a large number of dissatisfied students took their grievances to the streets.For this reason the Communist Party has been trying to find them jobs.

The State Council has also issued a five-point guideline for helping graduates find jobs. These include urging provincial and lower-level governments do all they can to create more employment. For instance, in the city of Weifang (Shandong) local officials have been asked to use all their contacts and influence to find jobs for at least three graduates. In Beijing the city government has just announced a scheme to employ 1,600 graduates on three-year contracts as assistants to officials in the villages around the city.

During a visit in Shaanxi Premier Wen Jiabao told about 2,500 students that his government will make job creation for graduates one of its top priorities this year. On Sunday in a speech he delivered at Xian Jiaotong University he encouraged students to widen their employment search to include grass-roots jobs.

Chinese President Hu Jintao also urged students to work at the grass-roots levels instead in an address he made on Saturday at the China Agricultural University.

The Ministry of Education said last week that about 48 per cent of the mainland’s 6 million graduates had managed to land jobs.

But joblessness is not just about not finding a job. For students from poor areas whose families took on major financial burdens to fund their studies, it can cause a sense of dishonour. For years they dreamt of landing a great job so that when their aspirations are not fulfilled, unemployment becomes a reason to be ashamed.

Official figures indicate in fact that joblessness is the main cause of suicide among students.

At the same time the number of students who abandon their studies before completing their education is up from under 10 per cent in 1998 to 23 per cent.

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