Monday, August 10, 2009

The Debts of the Lenders: America's Generation Y Find Jobs in China (Or Do They?)

A positive piece of news? Or a misguided piece of journalism? After reading the article I was filled w/more questions than answers.

Foremost among the questions in my mind were: 1) How representative is this group of people of US hires? 2) What is the cultural mentality of the Chinese employers?

Here is what I mean: all the employees interviewed in the article were a) Caucasian and b) Ivy Leaguers. This is not exactly representative of America's education pool. Race and class have always been important distinctions in hiring. But the facade of racial and class equality that wavers in the United States is stripped away in a foreign market w/alien laws.

Quite bluntly, it seems that these employees were hired more for their external characteristics than any internal elements. Status and the desire to project a "Western" appearance have always been strong elements among Asian employers. In countries like Japan and Thailand, this can take on ludicrous heights such as the importation of B grade actors to sell toothpaste and corn pizza on late night tv re-runs.

But a more positive aspect occurs in the wholesale trade and technical skills areas where Chinese employers are eager to hire those w/experience and/or connections in supply chain management, logistics, or any kind of engineering and technology fields.

However, keep in mind these Western imports will have to compete against a wave of Chinese college grads (see below).

BEIJING — Shanghai and Beijing are becoming new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates who face unemployment nearing double digits at home.

Even those with limited or no knowledge of Chinese are heeding the call. They are lured by China’s surging economy, the lower cost of living and a chance to bypass some of the dues-paying that is common to first jobs in the United States.

“I’ve seen a surge of young people coming to work in China over the last few years,” said Jack Perkowski, founder of Asimco Technologies, one of the largest automotive parts companies in China.

Jonathan Woetzel, a partner with McKinsey & Company in Shanghai who has lived in China since the mid-1980s, says that compared with just a few years ago, he was seeing more young Americans arriving in China to be part of an entrepreneurial boom. “There’s a lot of experimentation going on in China right now, particularly in the energy sphere, and when people are young they are willing to come and try something new,” he said.

And the Chinese economy is more hospitable for both entrepreneurs and job seekers, with a gross domestic product that rose 7.9 percent in the most recent quarter compared with the period a year earlier. Unemployment in urban areas is 4.3 percent, according to government data.

Chinese unemployment has been a recent - but recurring topic - covered on this web site. Earlier in the summer, I posted links to STATE MEDIA stories that revealed Chinese universities had been faking job statistics for recent grads. Now compound their woes w/this:

Deeply depressed and ashamed about her failure to find a job to take up when she graduated, and consumed with guilt about the financial sacrifices her family had made for her, Miss Liu brought her studies and her life to a premature end by drowning herself in a ditch full of freezing, filthy water.

"She did it because she was worried she wouldn't be able to find a job and so she wouldn't be able to repay us," her grief-stricken father, Liu Shangyun, told The Sunday Telegraph. His eyes were downcast as he recalled how he saw her alive for the last time, just two weeks before her death.

"I took her back to college. She seemed normal and she sent me a message saying, 'Don't worry, I'm OK,'" said Mr Liu. But the next time he saw her, it was to identify her body.

China faces a huge glut of graduates. With 1.5 million graduates from last year still out of work, there are simply not enough jobs to go around, and the problem has been exacerbated by the impact of the global financial crisis.

For Beijing, which in October will celebrate 60 years of communist rule in China, soaring graduate unemployment could not have come at a worse time.
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