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Chinese youth chase bourgeois dreams

Nineteen years after a brutal crackdown against student protesters at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, China's youth are more focused on iPods, designer jeans and buying their first car than political reform.

world Updated: Jun 05, 2008 23:19 IST

Nineteen years after a brutal crackdown against student protesters at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, China's youth are more focused on iPods, designer jeans and buying their first car than political reform.

Most of all they are worried about getting well paid jobs and a share of the newfound wealth that many Chinese professionals are enjoying as the economy surges ahead with double-digit growth.

That is easier said than done. Last summer, China had to provide jobs for nearly 5 million college graduates. This summer, 5.6 million more are getting ready to move out of dormitories and into the job market.

Often the first in their family to get higher education, these graduates of colleges and vocational schools have high expectations that are not being met despite soaring economic growth as there are more graduates than jobs in China.

“There's a saying, ‘as soon as you graduate, you are unemployed’,” said Xia Ding, who got his degree last year and, like many of his classmates, decided to apply for a master's programme when a job didn't come up.

The average employment rate of recent graduates was 73 percent in autumn 2007, the China Daily said, citing Ministry of Education figures.

"The birthrate in the 1950s through early 1970s was very high. The baby boomers born in those years are now adults," said Ha Jiming, chief economist at China International Capital Corp.

"Now it's the second wave, of baby boomers' babies. Their children are now in their twenties and many are in college," said Ha, whose research shows China will have a labor surplus through 2015.

Wide-ranging economic reforms in the last 30 years have allowed students to dream of college rather than a factory job.

“College graduates want higher salaries but they have no experience,” Ha said, adding that companies would rather poach workers than take a chance on a fresh graduate.