"BT December 18, 2008 Return to the land - China grads tread Mao's path
LIU Hao, who graduated in June with a degree in manufacturing from a Beijing technical school, found a job he loves - in a village of 288 people surrounded by peach orchards.
'Even the villagers think it's surprising,' he says. 'They say, 'what's a college graduate doing coming here?'
Forty years after Mao Zedong forced millions of young people to leave their families and schools for a new life in the countryside, China is seeing another migration for very different reasons.
Now the government is encouraging college graduates such as Mr Liu, 22, to help transform the countryside by taking their newly minted skills to rural areas where development has lagged behind the affluent cities and coastline.
'For Mao, it was really a political thing: He wanted to create a generation of revolutionaries,' says Michel Bonnin, director of studies at the Center for the Study of Modern and Contemporary China in Paris. Now, as the world's fourth-largest economy feels the drag of a global recession and rising unemployment, students need jobs and 'there is a real need in these regions for people with some good education. This is more rational'.
The opportunity appeals to some young people who face a grim employment situation. China's growth has slowed for five consecutive quarters, and its 9 per cent third- quarter expansion was the weakest in five years.
The World Bank last month forecast growth next year at 7.5 per cent, which would be the slowest pace in almost two decades.
An estimated 6.1 million new graduates will enter the job market in 2009, joining four million from previous years who are still looking for work, Zhang Xiaojian, the deputy minister of human resources and social security, said on Nov 20.
The unemployment rate for these young people is more than 12 per cent, triple the official urban rate, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said in a report released On Monday.
Mr Liu was one of seven students accepted for the programme out of 400 from his school who applied."
A serious story about the current stage of development of China's economy. A lot of analysts conveniently forget that China has a population of 1.3-1.4B. The majority of them, about 700-800m, has not enjoyed the fruits of the economic reforms started almost 30 years ago. The ratio between urban and rural is still lop-sidedly in favour of the rural population. Many regions and people are still fairly poor! About 100-150m of them roam the country serving as cheap manufacturing and construction labours with another lot of them serving in the service industry as maids, waiters and waitresses, etc.
Then there is this huge annual university graduates produced by the thousands of universities around the country that do not necessarily have the skills that supposedly high paying MNCs are looking for!
This article came in just in time as it echoed the challenges I mentioned in my yesterday blog.
So, to reinforce the lessons from yesterday with this article:
1. managing the gap between the haves and have nots are critical;
2. keeping the 700-800m happy, like what the young graduates are doing in this article, with painstaking and naturally time consuming education and application. A lot more resources need to be poured into this. Also there must be a cadre of passionate and selfless graduates who are prepared to do this. IF they can really find happiness in this national project, that will be the only way to keep them there!;
3. with raising unemployment, the government has to find alternative way to let the young and the retrenched returnees to 'home' find activities to occupy their idle mind. Otherwise, like they say: An idle mind is the devil's workshop' and strange things can develop from there! Stability, so much wanted by the government at all cost, may not be available!
May more graduates embrace this project and grow the number to 1m or 10m instead of just 100k!