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Obsolete syllabus needs upgrade to boost youth employment

By Cao Jia Source:China Daily 2023-12-20


The employment rate of youths entering the labor market every year influences the potential economic growth to a certain extent. Given China's declining overall as well as working-age population, higher youth employment means significantly higher economic growth.

China's endogenous driving force for economic growth is not strong at present, while global investment and trade have slowed sharply, directly affecting China's economic recovery despite improved social conditions. Although the overall employment situation, in general, is stable, young people still face prominent structural problems caused by multiple factors.

One of them is the misalignment of labor supply and demand. The large number of young job seekers has increased the pressure on the labor market. While some enterprises do not need many employees due to the foundering economic recovery, industries including education and the platform economy, where jobs for youths are concentrated, have encountered bottlenecks thus affecting youth employment.

The mismatch between industries and regions has led to structural contradictions. Globally, the manufacturing sector is the second most attractive industry for youths. But despite China's industries transforming from low-end to mid- and high-end, and requiring many high-skilled talents, most young job seekers don't favor them. The dilemma is that the young job seekers cannot meet the demand of high-end positions in the manufacturing industry and don't want to fill the low-end positions.

Besides, unbalanced and inadequate development within and among different areas have made some jobs unappealing to the youth. For example, the demand for labor cannot match the growing supply of labor in eastern areas, and labor supply is lower than job openings in western and northeastern regions.

Also, the existing system of skills training and certification cannot meet the demand of the labor market. Many majors in universities cannot meet the diversified job demands, and the rigid education system does not take into consideration the gap between graduates' skills and requirements of new technologies and new forms of businesses due to a lack of insightful research.

Besides, it is difficult for universities to introduce new majors because of the complicated process and the high cost of enrolling in such majors. In contrast, it is relatively easier for junior colleges to introduce some changes.

The mismatch between graduates' academic knowledge and the requirements of employers is also responsible for the difficulties graduates face in getting a job. What has further complicated the problem is that some youths don't have clear goals or are unwilling to work, and an increasing number of youths seek only government jobs.

So different government departments should cooperate to create more jobs, adjust the undergraduate syllabus to suit the job market's demands, in order to alleviate structural contradictions and promote high-quality employment.

First, government departments need to push forward industrial transformation to strike a new balance between supply and demand, help upgrade industries, and take measures to introduce new and strategic industries to create more jobs. They should also conduct research on industry trends, promote the development of the private economy and integration of development policies of small and micro-sized enterprises to increase youth employment.

Second, the education departments need to establish market-oriented mechanisms to introduce new majors to facilitate industrial transformation. The syllabuses of universities should align with the demands of society and industry, and colleges should keep in mind that they need to nurture graduates that have high employment potential. The universities should also consider reducing majors that draw a large number of students who, after graduation, find it difficult to get a job.

Third, there is also a need to take measures to help young people to sharpen their skills while encouraging them to work in manufacturing. Targeted training should be introduced for this purpose as well as to adapt to changes in industries and markets. Steps should also be taken to ensure young employees who make great contributions to society enjoy some favorable policies including salary increment, promotion, government-subsidized homes and urban (hukou) household registration.

Fourth, the timings of the annual civil service recruitment examination and postgraduate entrance examination should be changed, because they are held at the end or beginning of every year, preventing some graduates from attending on-campus job fairs and leaving them unemployed.

And fifth, it should be made clear that discrimination in employment is illegal. And to promote fair employment, the authorities should raise the penalty for breaking the law, and subsidize enterprises that make sincere efforts to end discrimination in employment.

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