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China Education United States News

Unemployed Chinese Graduates Say No Thanks To Factory Jobs 366

hackingbear writes "While people and politicians are pitching for more education and reviving manufacturing in this country, jobs go begging in factories while many college educated young workers, which now number 11 times more than in 1989, are unemployed or underemployed in China. A national survey of urban residents, released this winter by a Chinese university, showed that among people in their early 20s, those with a college degree were four times as likely to be unemployed as those with only an elementary school education. Yet, it is not about the pay. Many factories are desperate for workers, despite offering double-digit annual pay increases and improved benefits, while an office job would initially pay as little as a third of factory wages. The glut of college graduates is eroding wages even for those with more marketable majors, like computer science. Vocational schools and training programs are unpopular because they suffer from a low status [or are seen as] for people from unsuccessful, poor, or peasant backgrounds. 'The more educated people are, the less they want to work in a factory,' said an unemployed graduate. If we do succeed bringing back factory jobs, are there enough people who want them?"
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Unemployed Chinese Graduates Say No Thanks To Factory Jobs

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  • It's the stigma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ltap ( 1572175 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:20PM (#42701603) Homepage
    People still see factory jobs as being for "stupid" people and they are generally looked down on, while even terrible office work is considered acceptable. This shouldn't be.
  • Re:It's the stigma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alostpacket ( 1972110 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:28PM (#42701689) Homepage

    True, but you also dont spend years educating yourself in order to work on a factory line. Even bad office work is a start to an employment history and could lead to better opportunities down the road. Factory jobs just lead to more of the same.*

    *That said I can't even pretend I have any full grasp of how employment works in China.

  • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:30PM (#42701703)

    We've all heard the ancient urban myths about PhD's flipping burgers, but here in the States there seems to be a social stigma among younger graduates attached to manufacturing jobs that sometimes clouds one's financial judgement. Holding out for a cool-sounding title and a comfy chair over a steady job that pays considerably more, just because a lot of rednecks or minorities work there too, just doesn't make sense. You can still pursue your dream job while you earn a living, and you can do your laughing at the other people on payday.

  • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:35PM (#42701751)

    As a holder of a graduate degree who can currently only get work as unskilled labor, I can see both sides of this. I work on the ramp at the airport, and while the job isn't really all that bad, intellectually it is unstimulating and rather boring; obviously I am also greatly overqualified for it. The thing is, turns out there are a lot of people there with college degrees, including in things like law or engineering. And, once you get a few years in, you can actually make decent money: one guy I know who has been there 7-8 years makes about 70k a year with overtime. You actually end up working with some pretty good people, and there is opportunity to move up, especially if you have an advanced degree and the ability/desire to advance. In any case, its a whole lot better than sitting at home drawing unemployment. Not everyone is going to get to work their dream job, and eventually you have to make a decision on whats more important: waiting around for year for a tiny shot at getting a job in the field you studied for, or taking a job with pretty decent pay that will let you pay off your education debt and provide for yourself/your family.

    In this specific case, it seems like a no-brainer. If you are in fact skilled and intelligent, take that factory job. In a few years you'll probably end up a foreman, supervisor, or manager. Again, as someone in a similar situation, it comes down to this: job>no job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:43PM (#42701825)

    The problem is the pay, if the manufacturing job pays $12.50 an hr why bother? If they won't raise pay to get more people there isn't a real shortage.

  • by acidfast7 ( 551610 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:59PM (#42702017)

    But, when your working life is over, what have you really accomplished besides earning a wage? Why attend university at all?

    I see this with my father. He just retired after 31 years of hard manual labor where he could earn 90k/year with overtime. It's great that he had that option and he took advantage of it as much as possible. Now at 63, he doesn't have any hobbies and shuns intellectual stimulation because his brain has been dulled beyond repair.

    Thanks, but, no thanks! Hold out for the desired position and it's a life-changing decision if you don't.

  • by SpiralSpirit ( 874918 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:15PM (#42702197)
    back in the day factories had to train people to develop these skills, and it cost them money. factories pushing those costs onto education, which is paid for by the future employee or the government is funny. Of course they'd like colleges to teach exactly what they need - it will save them a lot of money!
  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:21PM (#42702243) Homepage Journal

    The headlines you see about the horrible education system in U.S. are referring to K-12. (student age 6 - 17). When it comes to universities, U.S. is still the envy of much of the world. (else you wouldn't see the flood of Chinese and Korean students coming to American colleges)

    In East Asian countries, kids are expected to study 20 hours a day to prepare themselves for the university entrance exam, which is extremely competitive. Getting into a top university sets you up for life. But once you actually get INTO a university, you don't need to study much at all. It's the exact opposite of U.S. where everything prior to college is a breeze, but you actually have to study and learn stuff to get your degree (at least if you're a STEM major)

    I have a co-worker who graduated from a S. Korean university in 1997. He regales us with stories of how he drank and chased girls in college. Once he woke up on the day of a final exam with a hangover, realized he knew absolutely nothing about the topic, so he wrote a personal essay involving himself, the professor, national ethics, and how wants to thank the professor for his hard work which is benefiting mankind. He ended up getting a C and passed the course.

  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:24PM (#42702271) Journal

    How about not living at home with your parents and being a loser no woman would want to be a mile away from? Isn't that worth getting up and going to work for?

    Disclaimer, I did something stupid when the great recession hit. I graduated in 2009 and worked a few jobs before that. When times got hard I took any job I could get and my wife left me for a man with a steadier future who was not all pissed off about it.

    I had to move back home with my parents. Insulting as i am in my 30s. I turned down jobs that paid 10/hr because I am worth more. I am educated and made more in the past right? Guess what.

    Over a year has gone bye and the only look I had were 2 temp jobs in my field. Well, I lost my car, lost my posessions, and now employers feel I am lazy and not even worth $10/hr. My past references are gone and working for other people, and now I have a whole on my resume so big you can drive a truck through it!

    If I could start over I would be happy to make $12/hr an hour with the other CS grads in my area working for IBM at their call center and not telling the headhunter to fuck himself when he offered $24,000 a year. I told him "Are you crazy! I owe $40,000 in student loans .."Now I am aiming for $16,000 a year. $7.25/hr with 40 hours a week lands you $16,500 a year. Can you believe that?

    I will probably never retire of find another woman again as I thought I was too good to take any job. So I know I am going to be bashed and insulted here saying "I brought this on my self or I am an idiot". But my lesson for any reader is if you are offered a position take it! Do it, and after a year quit or be promoted. Not everyone gets to make $40k a year out of school. It is 2013. THere are hundreds of H1B1 visa works happy to do it for less with +8 years experience!

    Go whine at the situation all you want but at the end of the day you are responsible for your upkeeping or your families. I hope I can make $38,000 again some day but right now I really need to earn it. You need that experience and a very good trackrecord for that salary.

    Outside of Silcon Valley I know of no one making $80k a year (read your other post). Wages are and have been going down for many years. It is a fact of life and I applaud the grandparent as I am sure he made the right move and will get rewarded quicker than from what I did.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:40PM (#42702427)

    Actually, for many students graduating nowadays, the crushing expense of student debt almost guarantees that the "learned it on the streets" employee will do better than they do. For example, if you're a law student(*), your prospects are so dismal that the opportunity cost will hurt more over time than simply having worked a "regular" job. It's 4 years of your life you could have been investing for, but instead you were accruing debt for.

    Consider how much money you would have, after interest, if you were to save just $10 a day (that's only one hour's pay after tax) in your $35,000 a year job (yes, you might think it's high, but that's the average starting wage for a trades helper--it goes up from there--I know know, I did that job) you would have amassed almost $20,000 in banked cash assuming you chose wise investments. You'd also be earning $50,000+ a year once the university grad graduates because you'd now be a journeyman.

    The fresh college grad is getting themselves a nice $35,000 a year pay to start off, just like you, but they have to put $10 a day towards student debt for the next 10+ years (don't forget the debt accrues interest the day you step out of college). In 10 years, the journeyman has now banked over $100,000 (assuming they up their daily savings with their increase in pay). While I don't doubt there's a point the college grad will beat the journeyman in salary, and eventually after-debt income, I have to wonder--how close to retirement is that point now? We're already at 32 years old and the journeyman has $100,000 cash, and the college grad $0 (but no debt!). Perhaps 10 years after that they might be equal in savings? By age 42 your children have likely left home--do you need money so desperately anymore?

    Or, more importantly, one has to ask themselves what is more rewarding. Pushing papers around the legal system, or building brick walls? You might be surprised at the answer, if you consider the question honestly.

    (*) - Or any of the other popular ones, history, geographic, librarian, teacher

    Everyone makes their own choices, and I don't envy anyone's decision, not do I deride it--except if your decision is to be a lazy good for nothing slob. :) But there's plenty of pride that comes from factory work (or any sort of manual labour job). I may be a sysadmin now, but I take no less pride in the time I spent as an electrician.

  • Re:It's the stigma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:52PM (#42702507)

    Not to mention if the choice is between "bad office work" and Foxconn... I think the choice is clear.

    It sounds like Chinese workers want the same thing that American workers want: better working conditions. If the pay isn't sufficient to draw adequate quantity of talent then you need to start upping your incentives. Reduce quotas and hours (after all more than 40 hours a week is a waste of money since you're just paying overtime for someone to do the same amount of work), improve working conditions (maybe mix up positions throughout the day to prevent repetitive injuries and strain) etc.

  • Re:It's the stigma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @04:33PM (#42702827)

    you do realize 20 years ago america looked just like china.

    This is the dumbest thing I've read today.

    Are you even twenty years old? Have you ever been to China?

  • Re:It's the stigma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @04:58PM (#42703051)

    Those jobs haven't been easier and paid better. Those jobs have been less physically demanding and paid better, which isn't the same thing.

  • Desperation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @05:08PM (#42703129)

    Any factory that is really "desperate for workers" would improve their pay, benefits, and working conditions until they were no longer desperate for workers. (Note that opportunities for advancement are factored in--if your job has fewer opportunities for advancement than other jobs, you need to improve the other factors enough to compensate.) If the industry is not dead (and this one clearly isn't), they will get enough workers before they make themselves unprofitable.

    In the H1B context in America, "desperate for workers" means "desperate with workers who will work for what little we have to offer". Interesting to see that it works the same way in a different industry, different country, and different circumstances as well.

  • Re:It's the stigma (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:56PM (#42703831)

    Your example of a rare outlier does not invalidate the general rule: These positions tend to not be positions you work your way into--they tend to be positions you are born into.

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