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China’s education problem: master’s degree graduates working in factories

beijingwalker

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China’s universities produce millions of graduates each year, but many can’t get a decent job and end up unemployed or in factories
  • A record high of 9.09 million university graduates entered the job market this summer, increasing from 8.74 million in 2020, according to the Ministry of Education
  • Nearly a third of the 135 newly enrolled production line workers at a tobacco factory held a master’s degree

Published: 12:00pm, 16 Jul, 2021

What qualification does one need to process tobacco leaves and roll cigarettes on a factory floor?
In central China’s Henan province, the job is being done by people with master‘s degrees.

Cigarette manufacturer China Tobacco Henan Industrial Co. has been at the centre of controversy recently because of the impressive qualifications of its newly recruited production line staff.

Nearly a third of the 135 newly enrolled production line workers held a master’s degree, while the rest were all undergraduates, some from China’s high-ranking universities, according to a list published on the website of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration in April which recently gained traction online.

Just a few months ago, a private school came under the spotlight for similar reasons – all the newly recruited teachers for the primary school under the Shenzhen Nanshan Foreign Language School were master’s graduates from top universities in and outside China, including Columbia University, Tsinghua, and Peking University.

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There is a growing awareness among the Chinese public that a good education means very little for many graduates when it comes to the job market. Photo: SCMP


These stories have generated heated public debate amid increasingly fierce competition in the job market as China churns out an increasing number of people with higher education diplomas each year.

A record high of 9.09 million university graduates entered the job market this summer, increasing from 8.74 million in 2020, according to the Ministry of Education.

Gradually I realised I was not competitive for positions in those places at allLiu Haotian

Over 54 per cent of the Chinese population aged between 18 and 22, the common age for entering post-secondary education, were receiving such an education last year. In 2002, this ratio was just 15 per cent, official data showed.

“This means we have entered an era of popularisation of higher education. More than a half of the young people you run into in the street have a higher diploma,” said Jennifer Feng, chief human resources expert of China’s leading recruitment firm 51job.

The value of their education has been diluted as a result. “Holding a bachelor’s degree is now like an entry threshold for jobseekers,” she said.

“Many employers have shared experience with me that they originally wanted to hire some undergraduates, but it turned out many graduates applied,” she said.

Liu Haotian, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from Shanghai Finance University in 2019, admitted that he had to lower his expectations after a year of unsuccessful job hunting.
“What I aimed for initially were financial institutions, but gradually I realised I was not competitive for positions in those places at all. The competitors were all from famous universities or held a higher degree,” he said.

At the beginning of the year, he finally landed a job as a property agent at Lianjia, a leading company in China’s real estate brokerage sector.

“This never occurred to me in the past – how could I do a job that just deals with the sale and rent of homes?” he said.

But he took it anyway since the salary is relatively good compared to other offers he received – a basic monthly salary of 8,000 yuan (US$1,238) plus commission, although he has yet to make a sale.

Liu is not the only university graduate who joined the realty industry in recent years, which traditionally has a low hiring threshold and a bad reputation for fake information and arbitrary charges.

Over 60 per cent of real estate agents in Beijing and Shanghai hold a bachelor’s degree, according to a report released earlier this week by Beike Research Institute, the research arm of Lianjia.

Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the number of graduates is not the problem, it’s the lack of jobs from the service sector, traditionally the sector which absorbs the most new graduates.


Services accounted for 54 per cent of China’s GDP last year, which is still too weak to generate enough jobs for the number of fresh graduates, he added.

“So when an undergraduate takes a job that used to be done by someone who only finished high school, whether it’s a waste of talent depends on if any value is added to this position,” he said.

“If he improves the service and makes innovations, then it’s not a waste. Instead, it’s helping the industry to upgrade, and in turn, creating more suitable jobs for future graduates,” he said.

But Liu, the real estate agent, said he did not see how his qualifications would make any difference to his work.

“I think someone with a high school diploma can do this job as well as an undergraduate. It’s more related to what kind of person you are, instead of what diploma you have,” he said.

Asked how much of what he learned in university has been useful at work, he smiled, “none.”

 

beijingwalker

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Chinese culture values education and the Chinese government prioritize education for decades, now we have this problem, but who says master degree holders can not work factory jobs?
 

Viet

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Chinese culture values education and the Chinese government prioritize education for decades, now we have this problem, but who says master degree holders can not work factory jobs?
Tell those master degree holders don’t come to Germany and open a chinese restaurant. Chinese foods are out of fashion.
 

hirobo2

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In the West, higher education is a scam. Students pay tens of thousands for a piece of paper worth not more than toilet paper if they can't find a job with it.

The smartest ppl in the world were the ones who saw thru this scam and dropped out of college: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc.
 

beijingwalker

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Is it still worth it that the government tries to turn every kid into at least a college graduate? is the money well spent for the government or some money should be diverted to other fields?

In Xinjiang even every herd's daughter in Pamir plateau goes to college because of the government subsidy and scholarships, are they going back to herding their sheep after college?

 
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casual

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Lol no. Masters degrees don't mean anything. What matters is your major. Basically anything outside of STEM and healthcare majors are worthless. Even then, diplomas are just to get you an interview. To get hired will depend on your ability solving interview questions.
 

Viva_Viet

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Is Germany your country? China is not the country she used to be 20 years ago, don't be confused with today's China with today's Vietnam.
today's China still has over 600 million people whose monthly income is barely 1,000 yuan (USD 140) and their lives have further been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday.

Not mentioning CN worker's wage were just stamped down, making million CNese lives getting even worse and hopeless during trade war.
 
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Hamartia Antidote

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Plus some commission he can still have some money left in the end of the month , cost of living is much lower in China, you know it don't you?

Yeah but something like a BYD Han EV still costs around 235,800 yuan ...and the price doesn't care about cost of living. So even if he didn't spend any of it that is 30 months of salary.

14,000 yuan for a Mate4. A cell phone.
 
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Kai Liu

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$1238 is still higher then minimum wage in the US. Plus he gets commission. It's similar to what a entry salesman would make in the US.
Still more than enough to buy a BYD Yuan SUV with 10 months of salary:
Or other decent EVs with even less:
And how about the jungle beggars who make 15 cents on average yet bark the laudest here like there is no tomorrow... :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
People can go without it, used cars are super cheap, less than 10000 Yuan per unit, go for those ones if you make little money.
It is so funny to see when Chinese and presumably Americans are debating about Tesla sales in terms of tens of thousands a month here, the jungle beggars whose 99% of the population have literally no chance to even ride a car in their lifetime, while keep barking like a mad dog here... :rofl: :rofl::rofl:
 
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