Signposts to the Future – The Employment Challenge

This is the first in a series of posts devoted to building a foundation on which to erect a reasoned prediction of China’s economic, social, and political future.

IMG_1695Nearly 7 million Chinese university graduates entered the work force last year, 5 million more than a decade ago and more than double the number of college graduates in the United States.  A high percentage of those graduates, unfortunately, did not find the kind of job they’ve literally worked all of their lives to obtain.

Understand why and you begin to appreciate the enormity of the challenge China faces in materially raising the standard of living across its enormous population.

One of many areas for students to park their bicycles at world-class Tsinghua University.
Student parking at world-class Tsinghua University.

Consider these facts:

  1. The collegiate graduating class of 2013 is almost double the combined total employment of the 15 largest technology companies in the world.
  2. It would take the equivalent of 130 Googles to employ that one graduating class.  And that’s not based on the number of college graduates Google hires each year.  That’s based on the total employment of the company that has come to symbolize the growth potential of a tech-driven economy.
  3. The combined employment of the three largest state-owned enterprises in China – behemoths by private sector standards – equals only 50% of this one graduating class.
  4. The TOTAL employment of Fortune’s 2013 Global 500 equals just 7% of China’s working age population.
  5. The combined annual revenues of Fortune’s 2013 Global 500, at $30.3 TRILLION, is 2.4 times larger than the annual GDP of the entire country of China (CIA World Factbook – Purchasing Power Parity).Concert Hall Tsinghua

The challenge is almost incomprehensible.  The working age population of China is 17 times that of Germany and nearly 4 times that of the United States.  How many bankers, lawyers, doctors, accountants, or even software engineers, does one economy need?

Higher education, once considered a sure path to a middle class lifestyle will provide little more than frustration and social strain if the economy can’t generate enough jobs requiring that level of academic achievement.

But how?  By the sheer magnitude of the numbers alone the task seems overwhelming.


Copyright © 2013 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.