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College graduates in China, like the U.S., face high unemployment

Rob Schmitz Nov 24, 2011

College graduates in China, like the U.S., face high unemployment

Rob Schmitz Nov 24, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well now to China, which — despite having an economy that is growing around 9 percent a year — has a surplus of unemployed college graduates. The government’s solution to the problem is to phase out college majors that produce “unemployable graduates.”

Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai.

Rob Schmitz: For all our differences, some things ring true both in the U.S. and China.

Li Beihong: Practical majors like I.T. and finance will get you a job after college. Majors like math, physics, or anything in the liberal arts, will make life difficult for you.

Li Beihong is an expert on China’s education system. He says China’s government is worried about a 30 percent unemployment rate among its college graduates. It’ll soon take a close look at college majors. If less than 60 percent of graduates with the same major fail to find work, the government will force colleges to stop offering the major. Li likes the idea, but…

Beihong: I don’t think it’ll solve our unemployment problem. Some unpopular majors now might be popular later on.

He says in an economy growing in a steady 9 percent, skills that are needed this year may be completely worthless in the next. Authorities haven’t sat down and down the math on which majors will be cut. Maybe they can hire the math majors to do that.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

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