Graduation was fast approaching, but Yang Xiaomin, a 21-year-old college student in northeastern China, skipped her university’s job fair. Nor did she look for positions on her own. She didn’t think she had a chance of landing one.
毕业在即,中国东北21岁的大学生杨晓敏(音)没去参加学校的招聘会。她也没有自己找工作。她认为自己根本拿不到工作机会。
“Some jobs won’t even take résumés from people with bachelor’s degrees,” said Ms. Yang, who, along with a record 3.77 million of her peers, instead took the national entrance exam for graduate school last month. “Going to graduate school won’t necessarily help me get a better job, but it will at least give me more choices of opportunities.”
“有些职位甚至连本科学历的都不要,”杨晓敏说。于是,她和创纪录的377万同龄人一起,在上个月参加了全国研究生入学考试。“去读研不一定能帮我找到更好的工作,但至少给我更多选择的机会。”
China’s economy has largely rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic, with data released on Monday showing it has become perhaps the only major economy to have grown last year. Still, one area remains sorely lacking: the supply of desirable, well-paying jobs for the country’s rapidly ballooning count of university graduates. Most of the recovery has been fueled by blue-collar sectors such as manufacturing, on which the Chinese economy still relies heavily.
中国经济已从新冠病毒疫情中反弹,周一公布的数据显示,它可能是去年唯一实现增长的主要经济体。尽管如此,有一个领域仍然严重匮乏:为该国迅速增长的大学毕业生人数提供理想、高薪的工作。复苏主要是由制造业等蓝领产业推动,中国经济仍然严重依靠这些行业。
With the encouragement of the government, many students are turning to a stopgap solution: staying in school. China’s Ministry of Education announced at the height of the outbreak that it would order universities to expand the number of master’s candidates by 189,000, a nearly 25 percent increase, to ease unemployment. Undergraduate slots would also increase by more than 300,000.
在政府的鼓励下,许多学生正在寻求权宜之计:继续念书。中国教育部在疫情最严重的时候宣布,它将下令大学扩招18.9万硕士生——增幅近25%,以缓解失业。本科生也将扩招30万以上。
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Nearly four million hopefuls took the graduate entrance exam last month, an almost 11 percent increase from the year before and more than double the number from 2016.
上个月,近400万考生参加了研究生入学考试,比前一年增长了近11%,是2016年的两倍多。
School is a common landing pad worldwide during times of economic uncertainty, but in China, the push to expand enrollment lays bare a long-running problem. Even before the pandemic, the country’s graduates complained that there were not enough suitable jobs. Official employment numbers are unreliable, but the authorities said in 2014 that unemployment rates for the college-educated two months after graduation were as high as 30 percent in some areas.
在经济不稳定时期,在世界各地,学校通常会成为许多人的着陆点,但是在中国,推动扩招却是一个长期存在的问题。甚至在疫情暴发之前,该国的毕业生就抱怨没有足够的合适工作。官方的就业数据并不可靠,但当局在2014年表示,在某些地区,大学毕业生在毕业两个月后的失业率高达30%。
As a result, many Chinese have worried that the expansion of graduate slots will increase already fierce competition for jobs, dilute the value of advanced degrees or postpone an unemployment crisis. “Are graduate students under siege?” the headline of one state-controlled publication read.
因此,许多中国人担心,扩招会加剧本已激烈的就业竞争,稀释高级学位的价值或推迟失业危机。一份官方媒体用了《研究生被困住了吗》这样的标题。
The Communist Party in recent years has frequently linked the prosperity of college graduates not only to economic development, but also to “social stability,” worrying that they could be a source of political unrest if their economic fortunes falter.
近年来,共产党不但经常将大学毕业生的光明前途与经济发展联系在一起,而且与“社会稳定”联系在一起,担心如果他们的经济机会不佳,可能会成为政治动荡的一个来源。
But in seeking to keep unemployment down for those workers, the government must also be careful not to inflate their hopes, said Joshua Mok, a professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong who studies China’s education policy. “It may create a false expectation for those highly skilled people,” Professor Mok said. “The Chinese government has to watch out about how to manage these sorts of expectations.”
不过,香港岭南大学研究中国教育政策的莫家豪教授说,在设法降低这些人的失业率的同时,政府还必须谨慎,不能让他们产生过高的期望。“这可能会给那些高技能人才带来错误的期望,”莫家豪教授说。“中国政府必须提防如何处理这种期望。”
The government’s expansion push is part of a broader, decades-long effort to increase university enrollment. In 1997, China had fewer than 3.5 million undergraduate and graduate students, according to official statistics. In 2019, there were more than 33 million, not counting online schools and adult higher education institutions.
政府这次的扩招努力是数十年来为增加大学入学率所做的更广泛努力的一部分。根据官方统计,1997年中国的本科生和研究生不足350万。2019年,这个数字超过3300万,还不包括远程教育和成人高等教育机构。
Per capita, the number of advanced degrees still lags that of developed countries. There are about two graduate students for every 1,000 Chinese residents, according to government statistics, compared with about nine in the United States. Still, China’s economy has not kept up with the rapid expansion of higher education, leaving each round of new graduates competing for a small pool of jobs.
人均高级学位的数量仍然落后于发达国家。根据政府统计,每千名中国居民中大约有两名研究生,而美国有九名。无论怎样,中国经济仍未能跟上高等教育的迅速扩张,导致每一届的新毕业生都要为不多的职位竞争。
南京的学生来到一所学校参加高考。
南京的学生来到一所学校参加高考。 Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The pandemic has exacerbated those concerns. A report by Zhaopin, China’s biggest job recruitment platform, found that 26.3 percent of 2020 college graduates were unemployed last June. Jobs for fresh college graduates fell 7 percent from the same time the year before, the report said, while the number of applicants surged nearly 63 percent.
大流行加剧了这些担忧。中国最大的就业招聘平台智联招聘的一份报告发现,去年6月,平台上2020年大学毕业生的失业率为26.3%。报告说,平台上为应届大学毕业生提供的职位数量较上年同期下降了7%,而申请人数则激增了近63%。
“What the current Chinese economy needs is more people that have technically oriented qualifications, rather than only general academic degrees from universities,” Professor Mok said. “There’s a mismatch of skills.”
“当前中国经济需要的是更多具有技术资格的人才,而不仅仅是一般的大学学位,”莫家豪教授说。“存在技能的不匹配现象。”
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The competition has led many students to feel that an advanced degree is practically mandatory. Ms. Yang, who is studying land resource management, said she had long known she would attend graduate school because her undergraduate degree alone was “too low quality.”
竞争使许多学生感到必须去读一个高级学位。杨晓敏正在学习土地资源管理,她说,她很早就知道自己会去读研,因为仅拿本科学位“质量太低”。
She knew that competition for admission would increase after the outbreak. “If you choose to take the master’s exam, you can’t be afraid of there being a lot of other people,” she said.
她很清楚疫情暴发后入学竞争会加剧。她说:“既然选择考研,就不能怕人多。”
Others have been less accepting. On Weibo, where the hashtag “what do you think of the graduate exam craze?” has been viewed more than 240 million times, many have worried that teaching quality or the value of their degree would go down as enrollment shot up.
其他人就不那么能接受了。在微博上,话题标签为“如何看待考研热”的标签浏览量超过2.4亿次,许多人担心随着招生人数激增,教学质量或学位价值会下降。
Others have asked whether the government was simply putting off a surge in unemployment for a few years. Some worried that companies would raise their application standards higher. Still others wondered whether there would be enough dormitories to accommodate all students.
还有人质疑政府或许只是将失业率激增推迟了几年。一些人担心公司会提高申请标准。还有一些人怀疑没有足够的宿舍容纳所有的学生。
“Enrollment expansion is not just a matter of arithmetic,” one person wrote. “We must think about how this will affect the overall development of education and society.”
“扩招不仅仅是数学问题,”一个网友写道。“我们必须思考这会给教育和社会整体发展带来什么样的影响。”
The concern reached such a pitch that it prompted a government response. Hong Dayong, a Ministry of Education official, acknowledged at a news conference last month that some universities had experienced teacher shortages as graduate programs grew. But he said that officials would introduce tighter quality-control measures and that the government would encourage universities to offer more vocationally focused master’s degrees in order to help graduates find jobs.
人们非常担忧,促使政府做出回应。教育部官员洪大用在上个月的一次新闻发布会上承认,随着研究生项目的增加,一些大学出现了教师短缺的问题。但他表示,官员们将引入更严格的质量控制措施,政府将鼓励大学提供更多面向职业的硕士学位,帮助毕业生找到工作。
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The government has also ordered state-owned enterprises to hire more recent graduates and subsidized companies that hire them.
政府还要求国有企业雇用更多应届毕业生,并向雇佣他们的企业提供补贴。
Some advice has been blunt. Chu Chaohui, a researcher at China’s National Institute of Education Sciences, told the state-owned Global Times tabloid that graduates should lower their sights. As they did so, they would find jobs in sectors such as food or parcel delivery, he said.
有些建议是直言不讳的。中国教育科学研究院研究员储朝晖在接受官方小报《环球时报》采访时表示,毕业生应该把眼光放低一些。他说,这样就能在外卖或快递等行业找到工作。
Inflated expectations may indeed be heightening competition for jobs. According to Zhaopin, the recruiting website, there are about 1.4 positions available to college graduates for each applicant, even after the epidemic. But many graduates look only in the biggest cities or expect high salaries, Professor Mok said.
过高的预期可能确实加剧了就业竞争。据招聘网站智联招聘称,即使在疫情过后,每个大学毕业生也大约有平均1.4个职位可以申请。但莫家豪说,许多毕业生只把目光投向大城市,或者期望得到高薪。
Still, some students said the government’s encouragement of the pursuit of higher education would only strengthen those expectations.
尽管如此,一些学生表示,政府鼓励学生追求高等教育只会提高他们的期望。
“Everyone has their own ambitions, even a little bit of arrogance,” said Bai Jingting, an economics student in eastern Anhui Province. Ms. Bai, 20, said she had visited her college’s job fair in the fall but hadn’t found any positions that seemed exciting enough. “Since I decided to apply for graduate school, of course I will think about how it should be easier to find a job afterward, and easier to find a job that I want.”
“每个人都有自己的抱负,甚至会有点傲气,”来自安徽的经济专业学生白静婷(音)说。白静婷20岁,她说自己去年秋天参加了学校的招聘会,但没有找到任何让人兴奋的职位。“既然决定考研,当然会考虑以后找工作应该会更容易,更容易找到想要的工作。”
Further fueling the competition is the fact that many students who had planned to study or work abroad no longer have that option.
许多原本计划出国学习或工作的学生不再有这样的选择,这让竞争进一步加剧。
Before the pandemic, Fan Ledi, a recent graduate from the western province of Qinghai, had planned to move to Ireland for a one-year master’s program in human resource management. He wanted to work there afterward, excited by the prospect of learning about a new culture.
疫情暴发前,来自西部省份青海的应届毕业生范乐迪(音)曾计划去爱尔兰读一年的人力资源管理硕士课程。他希望之后能在那里工作,对学习一种新文化的前景感到兴奋。
范乐迪(音)曾希望到爱尔兰留学。
范乐迪(音)曾希望到爱尔兰留学。
But he has scrapped that plan and will look for jobs at home when he finishes his program, which he is completing online because of travel restrictions.
但他已经放弃了这个计划,打算完成学业后在家乡找工作。由于旅行限制,他将在网上完成学业。
“Irish people are having trouble finding work, let alone foreigners,” Mr. Fan said. He added that he was worried about discrimination, as anti-China sentiment rises in many Western countries. “I think going abroad to find work right now is decidedly impossible.”
“爱尔兰人自己都找不到工作,更别说外国人了,”范乐迪说。他还说,随着许多西方国家的反华情绪上升,他担心会出现歧视。“我觉得现在出国找工作是绝对不可能的。”
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He is already attending job fairs, though he will not finish school until November. Recruiters tell him he is too early, but he asks them to take his résumé anyway.
他已经开始参加招聘会了,不过他要到11月份才能完成学业。招聘人员说他来得太早,但他还是要求他们收下他的简历。
Given the jostling for both jobs and graduate school spots, Ms. Bai, in Anhui, shrugged at the government’s increase in master’s seats. Her major, economics, was one of the most popular, she said, and competition would always be fierce.
考虑到就业和研究生入学的竞争,安徽的白静婷对政府增加硕士研究生名额的做法不以为然。她说,她的专业经济学是最热门的专业之一,竞争总是很激烈。
“How much can enrollment expand?” she said. “It’s just a drop in the bucket.”
“扩招能增加多少?”她说。“杯水车薪而已。”