- China’s record 8.7 million graduates face toughest job market
- Beijing has enlisted nation’s mega banks to aid in recovery
China’s mega banks are ramping up their recruitment of fresh graduates as a record number enter the labor market, joining other state-owned firms in boosting employment even as lenders deal with plunging earnings and ballooning bad debt.
The four biggest state banks, led by Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., this month kicked off their autumn campus hiring, instead of in November as in previous years. China Construction Bank Corp. plans to add 16,000 graduates this year, up from 13,000 last year. Bank of China Co. will increase its hiring by 15% to more than 10,000, according to their advertisements. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. already hired 4,500 people during the spring round.
“This is in direct response to the government’s call to protect jobs,” said Tang Jianwei, a Shanghai-based analyst at Bank of Communications Co.’s research institute. “Even though the big banks are facing pressure on their own earnings, they still need people to develop the business. Also it’s important for them to assume social responsibility.”
China’s largest banks have already been leaned on by Beijing to prop up the economy. They’ve been told to pump cash out to small and medium-sized businesses and forgo profits by lowering interest rates and providing relief on trillions of yuan of troubled loans. Most recently, the government doubled down on pressure to get the major state-owned financial groups to cut salaries.
Together, the four biggest banks employ 1.6 million people and Construction Bank’s hiring plans alone approach the combined staff additions made by the largest U.S. and European banks in this year’s first half. Chinese lenders are mostly looking to hire for customer service, wealth management, and information technology, according to job ads on their websites.
Representatives for ICBC, AgBank, Construction Bank and Bank of China declined to comment.
Yet the tens of thousands of new jobs are but a drop in the bucket. The record 8.7 million of fresh graduates face the bleakest job prospects in decades as the global pandemic has pummeled domestic demand and exports. While inching down recently, surveyed urban unemployment hit a record at the height of China’s virus outbreak in February. Unemployment for those of prime graduate age, 20 to 24, hovered at about 20% in July, according to the country’s statistics bureau.
A report by Zhaopin.com, one of China’s biggest recruiting websites, showed that more than a quarter of recent graduates were still looking for a job as of June after hunting for one year, a period during which most would have typically landed jobs in the past.