BEIJING -- Soon-to-be graduates in China are facing unexpected employment challenges this year brought by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The period after Lunar New Year is normally high season for job-hunting graduates. Masses of companies go to campuses to meet students, conduct writing tests and arrange face-to-face interviews, but on-site recruitments have been largely disrupted this year amid nationwide bans on public gatherings to avoid the spread of disease.
Universities and companies have been moving their recruitment procedures online. Authorities also tried to provide more job opportunities and encouraged graduates to start businesses, seek higher education or join the military.
"I was extremely worried last month as I failed to secure a job interview," said Fan Anming, a student who is due to graduate this summer from the University of Science and Technology Beijing.
The university asked a teacher to offer tailored coaching to Fan. In addition, it uploaded dozens of livestreaming lectures about job-hunting tips on video-sharing app Douyin, also known as TikTok, to help students tide over the difficulties.
Last week, Fan successfully passed an interview held by a tech firm. Fan is among a total of 8.74 million students who are expected to graduate from college this year, 400,000 more than last year.
More than 80 percent of graduates felt anxious about job prospects as they worried about a plunge in job demand. However, over 90 percent of 104 surveyed companies claimed not to reduce original employment demand, according to a survey conducted by the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE).
A State Council executive meeting on Tuesday noted that keeping employment stable should be a priority amid China's efforts to promote balanced advancement in the prevention and control of the epidemic and economic and social development.
The meeting urged more market-oriented approaches to facilitate employment and entrepreneurship for key groups of labor such as college graduates and migrant workers while encouraging national scientific research projects to recruit more college graduates.
To ease the job market pressure, more options were offered. In early March, China's Ministry of Education issued a circular, encouraging college graduates to pursue higher education, join the military, find jobs or start businesses in sectors including modern agriculture and public social services.
Many colleges are resorting to "cloud recruitment" for this year's graduates. On Wednesday, five universities, including Beijing Jiaotong University and Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, jointly launched an online recruitment event to expand job-hunting channels and better use the resources.
The event has attracted more than 1,100 enterprises and organizations in the fields of transportation, communication, construction and the internet. The employers will offer around 70,000 jobs for college graduates.
An online recruiting program jointly launched by six major job-hunting websites in China has offered over 2 million jobs for university graduates since Feb. 28. According to Zhaopin.com, the country's leading human resources service provider, more than 50,000 enterprises have participated in the online campus recruitments through the platform by Sunday, offering 200,000 jobs. Over 450,000 students have submitted 1.7 million resumes.
The local Chinese governments have also lent a helping hand. Beijing Municipal Education Commission said they would expand channels for college graduates to find jobs, streamline the employment procedures and focus on new jobs emerging in new economies.
Shanghai on Monday launched a "cloud job fair" with 6,000 recruiters providing more than 100,000 jobs for high-level talent and college graduates worldwide. High-level talent recruitment at the municipal level covered a variety of fields, including integrated circuits, biomedicine, AI, finance and shipping logistics. At the same time, three special online events were held for graduates, such as the 2020 spring campus recruitment.
On Tuesday, southwest China's Guizhou Province launched 10 measures to boost employment among college graduates, such as expanding recruitment in rural schools and primary-level government agencies, encouraging students to start their own businesses and seek higher education.
Universities have also offered help for college graduates in virus-hit Hubei Province. Online hiring events targeting Hubei students were organized.
"Our university has set up a WeChat group for Hubei students who are due to graduate in summer. Teachers share job-hunting information, help them improve resumes and offer guidance on job interviews," said Gao Yu, a postgraduate with UIBE.
Zhang Haoyue, a postgraduate with Peking University who is due to graduate in summer, underwent three online job interviews in one day. But she still feels anxious about her job prospects.
"The epidemic has led to an interruption in many graduates' internships. And some employers said we should pass their in-person recruitment activities when the outbreak is over despite the fact that we have finished an online one. I'm not sure whether or not I can finally land a job," Zhang said.
Beijing is expected to have 240,000 college graduates this year. So far, around 34 percent of them have gotten job offers, six percentage points higher than that before the outbreak.
Some students are afraid of losing edge in the competitive job market if their universities reopen later than others, while others who have had offers worry that their employers may lay off workers under economic pressure, said Yang Ziqiang, a researcher with National Academy of Development and Strategy, Renmin University of China.
Yang suggested that educational authorities require universities in the same provincial-level regions to reopen at the same time, let soon-to-be graduates return to campuses first if the epidemic prevention condition allows, and better manage online recruitment activities to ensure fairness and safety in the hiring process.
Liang Ying, deputy head of the admission and employment office of Beijing Jiaotong University, said online tutoring enterprises and public institutions are expected to offer more jobs for college graduates this year.
"Most graduates are optimistic about job prospects. China's improving economic fundamentals and the trend of upward momentum in the long term have not changed. With the help of supporting policies, we are confident to help more students land jobs," Liang said.