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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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  • And why should they? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:22PM (#42701619) Homepage

    Let's be honest, college in China is no where near the difficulty as in the U.S. It's even harder than Japan if folks who've been to both countries are to be belived. You work hard for an education, you deserve something better than being a semi-automoton.

    But he will not consider applying for a full-time factory job because Mr. Wang, as a college graduate, thinks that is beneath him...

    “I have never and will never consider a factory job — what’s the point of sitting there hour after hour, doing repetitive work?” he asked.

    Now we get on our graduates' cases when they complain about doing menial jobs. It's a tough first year (or 5) right after school, but in places like China where you're competing against literally millions in the same line, what are your odds of personal advancement without connections?

  • It's about status (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bbartlog ( 1853116 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:41PM (#42701817)
    For young people (those still looking for a mate, in particular), taking a factory job would be a big blow to their status, regardless of the level of pay. Better an unemployed white collar professional than an employed manufacturing worker, welder, or truck driver. It's similar in the US. Financially the median person is better off becoming a truck driver at 19 than pursuing a law degree (and racking up the associated debt), but being a trucker is really socially limiting. Likewise manufacturing in China, I expect.
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:53PM (#42701965)

    More places need the German system two tier system or at least some like where apprenticeships and trades schools are not kicked to the side.

  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @02:55PM (#42701981)

    Here in Germany, there are some factory jobs that can compete with the salary one would get as an engineer, but not many.
    And they tend to be skilled jobs, so it is not just a matter of "oh, I feel like doing manufacturing for a change", you usually have to show that you've successfully completed some form of vocational training. So the graduate who has never worked in a factory before might not be accepted for these jobs.

    He could try for an unskilled job instead but the pay is much lower then. The Chinese situation seems pretty unique.

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

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:49PM (#42702483) Journal
    Have you SEEN how shitty the air is in China? Where do you think that foulness is coming from? People are making the mistake of thinking like an American with our clean and more or less safe working conditions to those in China where its such a nasty grimy dead end job that they had to put nets around Foxconn to catch the jumping workers, remember?
  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:53PM (#42702509)

    we have no such problem, the percentage of world's poor is shrinking []

    technology and economic growth, bitch

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

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @04:07PM (#42702621)
    Maybe it's not about stigma, but simply about how hard work is vs. how much it pays?

    We have become so deeply ingrained with the idea that easier work should pay more, that we simply can't imagine it any other way.

    My first job was planting gladiola bulbs. I might have made $30 over the summer (granted not a huge number of hours). Then delivering newspapers, then milk, then cashier, and so on, through computer support, web development, jr. programmer... today I have an office job as a researcher making over 20 times as much per hour as I made as a cashier. I would not pick fruit for the same pay, let alone 20% the pay.

    Without exception, every job has been easier and paid better than the last.

  • by Kwyj1b0 ( 2757125 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @04:17PM (#42702713)

    While this phenomenon is to be expected, it happened much faster than I expected. And I consider it a good thing. We need people to move people out of low-level manufacturing.

    The problem with manual labor is that sooner or later, automation will cause a majority of the workforce to become unemployed. Irrespective of wage cuts, cramped spaces, etc. A machine can almost always do it better than a human can (and for cheaper given a large enough scale). If there is a fixed algorithm/procedure to follow with very little dynamic decision making, you don't need humans to do it.

    We should be educating people more and more and give them the skills that won't be automated in 5-10 years. Otherwise, you are just pushing the problem a few years down the line - "iPhone manufacturing is now automated? Fine, I'll join an iTeleport manufacturing plant". Which is why when I hate it when a politician talk about how they are going to "bring back manufacturing from China" - they aren't addressing the problem. Those low-skill manufacturing jobs aren't coming back. Either they will be automated, or you are competing against an extremely cheap labor force and will never win out.

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

    by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:55PM (#42703829)

    OK, here: [] is a picture from the park next to (north of) the Forbidden City in Beijing. Beyond 1.5km it's impossible to see anything, not even the shape of the buildings.

    The photo is from October 2012. Can you see anything like that for an American city in 1990?

    Also, it's like that much of the time in many Chinese cities. It's even worse when the weather doesn't cooperate (where it might cause smog for a day or two in present-day LA).

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

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:58PM (#42703857) Journal
    It also sounds like they have a "buyers market" for labour, workers can pick and choose because there are plenty of jobs and businesses are forced to react by making more attractive offers. Henry Ford famously did the same thing with his factory (the largest in the world at the time). He dramatically cut workers hours at the same time as handing out massive pay increases, and then made a big noise about it in the newspapers. Workers flocked to the Ford factory looking for a job, (somewhat counter-intuitively) productivity also went through the roof. A direct result of Ford's policy was that it pushed the US into a 40hr week much faster than the unions could have done so alone, it was a glaring example to all that such a move would not destroy the economy..

    When I was a kid China was still suffering the last of Mao's self-induced famines, I'm pretty sure most workers in China look at today's job market as a blessing rather than a problem because at the end of the day, finding and retaining workers is a rich man's problem and a common man's opportunity.

You can't have everything... where would you put it? -- Steven Wright