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China's graduates adjust to new economy's changing skill demands

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - 08:52
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For an illustration of how China's economy is changing, take a look at this year's army of college graduates.

[BEIJING] For an illustration of how China's economy is changing, take a look at this year's army of college graduates.

With a record number of students set to don cap and gown, new research shows that a bachelors degree is no longer the career ticket it once was. That's because of rising competition, fewer opportunities and an economy that's shifting gears from the fast lane to something slower.

Some 77.4 per cent of those who graduated from university last year found a full-time job, down from 79.2 per cent in 2014 and 80.6 per cent in 2013, according to MyCOS, a Beijing-based research firm focused on higher education.   And here's an illustration of China's rapidly ageing population: The number of high-school grads taking the national entrance examination is edging lower. Some 9.4 million people sat for the Gaokao exams this year, a drop of 20,000 from 2015, according to a survey by education portal eol.cn. 

That softer landscape is prompting students to either stay in school and pursue higher qualifications, or forge their own careers through starts up-another sign of changing times.

MyCOS estimates that 3 per cent of 2015 graduates started their own companies and 10.1 per cent pursued a higher degree, both up from previous years. That has helped the overall employment rate hold steady in the past three years, the firm said.  Reflecting the nation's increasing reliance on services to bolster growth, the information, education and medical sectors are hiring graduates rapidly, the report showed.

But predictably for the world's biggest trading nation, the best way to guarantee a job in 2015 was to study logistics management, which boasted 96.6 per cent employment.

As China's factories upgrade, there's more demand for those who have studied automation and software engineering too. But the majors with dimming prospects include applied psychology, chemistry, music performance and bio-technology.

As the next crop of 7.7 million graduates mull their entry into the workforce this summer, their prospects will rely heavily on matching their newly acquired skills to the needs of a rapidly shifting economy.

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