Tough market for China's graduates

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA record seven million students graduated from university in China this year

It may not seem the obvious place to start a job hunt but a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Beijing has become a pilgrimage site for some university graduates.

At the Wofo Temple the graduates make offers to the Buddha, hoping that a spot of divine intervention will help secure them a decent job.

English-speaking graduates chose the temple because they believe the name "Wofo" sounds similar to "offer" - as in job "offer" - in English.

One of those praying is Deng Naixin. Despite only being in her second year of a management studies degree, she is already worried about her prospects.

"The situation is getting tougher and tougher," said the 19-year-old. "There are so many graduates now."

"I need to keep working hard to improve my opportunities. But I'm also superstitious so I hope the Buddha will help me out."

Image caption Deng Naixin says securing a job is becoming harder for graduates

But the prayers of today's graduates are largely going unanswered. This year a record seven million students graduated from China's colleges and universities.

It is all part of the country's rapid expansion of higher education, which has seen the number of graduates more than triple in a little over a decade.

But they are entering the workforce as China's economy continues to slow down - the days of double digit growth are over.

It is little wonder than that Chinese state media have dubbed this the hardest job-hunting season ever.

Graduate recruitment has slumped. According to one survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, firms are hiring 15% fewer graduates than they did a year ago.

'Change expectations'

At one of the many job fairs in Beijing this summer you could sense the anxiety.

Dozens of companies - mostly real-estate and sales firms - had set up little white booths advertising positions. Graduates loaded up with CVs stalked the hall in search of an opportunity.

Among the job seekers was Chen Kun, 22, who graduated last month. He has already applied for more than 100 positions.

Image caption Chen Kun (R) has applied for dozens of jobs, so far unsuccessfully

"Finding a job is more difficult than I expected," he said. "But I can accept it. My dream is to become a stockbroker. But in the current employment situation I don't think I'll get the position."

China is hoping to create an educated workforce to rival that of the West. It wants an army of graduates to shift the country's economy away from its low-skilled manufacturing base.

But a frequent refrain from prospective employers is that graduates are not equipped for the world of work.

"Their biggest problem is their attitude," said Zhu Rong, who was recruiting for a real estate agency at the job fair.

"They need to change their expectations. What they've learnt at university is purely theoretical. They need to get experience from a real job before they can hope to get their dream position."

The Chinese government is worried that high levels of graduate unemployment could affect social stability. The country's new premier, Li Keqiang, has called for more schools, government agencies and state-owned enterprises to employ graduates to help alleviate the problem.

China has created an educated generation with expectations to match. But the growing worry for the country's leaders is that there are not enough decent jobs to go around.

More on this story