The term “Hardest job-hunting season in record” has been a buzzword these days. According to China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, 6.99 million students will be graduating this year, making the sacle of graduating students a record high “since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China”.

The intimidating number gave rise an unavoidable issue: the employment rate of college graduates. The latest statistics released by Beijing Municipal Commission of Education showed only 33.6 percent of college graduates in Beijing have signed employment contracts, though up by 5% than that in April. Meanwhile, a recent report by Tecent-Mycos demonstrated a gloomy prospect of college graduates employment.

“I just can’t figure out why it’s so hard to get a job this year,” said Miranda Zhang, graduating student at a Beijing-based university, “I feel desperate—campus recruitment is competitive, with dozens of people competing for one position while social recruitment usually disregards graduating students because we do not have any prior work experience.”

It was not always the case. Before the financial crisis in 2008, the whole economic  picture for both China and Chinese students was a lot more optimistic—businesses were expanding, new companies were emerging thus lots of flesh talents were needed. However, with China lowering its GDP growth to 7.5% this year, businesses showed signs of shrinking, especially those of small-size and medium-size enterprises. Data showed that the total number of needed jobs was down by 15% compared with that of 2012.

Miranda is therefore not alone in her worries.

The gloomy mood continues to spread among Chinese college students and alike complaints or sense of disappointment are so prevalent in the online community that you would see numerous similar complaining posts or tweets on popular social media platforms such as Sina Weibo (Twitter-like service), Renren (Facebook-like service) and Douban (a IMDB-like interests-sharing website).

One of the most shared complaints is the unfairness they experienced in job interviews. In fact, lack of transparency or use of guanxi (relation) is particular evident in job competition for state-owned enterprises or in civil servant applications—positions within these kinds of organizations are considered as much more stable and profitable than other jobs in China.

Sara Wang, journalism student at Wuhan University, told me her allegedly unfair job competition for Chines National Radio. She said that she made all the way through resume selection, written exams to the last round of interview, but was weeded out in the body-check section. Her guess was someone else used guanxi to get the job, which is unable to prove anyway. Perhaps that is why Weibo user @我是千里驴 proposed that “[to solve the problem of unemployment] the essential thing to do is to make sure the transparency and fairness of employment.”

However, some attributed the large-scale unemployment to college students themselves as user @穿心莲籽 wrote:

“How can you satisfy a crowd of poor college students who have grandiose aims but puny abilities? What they want is a job that does not require much labor, that does not need to expose themselves to sunshine or rainfall, that is of high social status and high salary, that they can play games while they are at work and can attend social gathering while they are off work; in other words, job that is a golden bowl within the system. [College students] think that with their received education, they do not belong to the working class anymore and that they should at least get a white-collar job. No wonder they cannot get a job.”

While this is true to some extent, a larger proportion of people held the government responsible for the unemployment. In fact, the public has long been criticizing Chinese colleges’ blind expansion. 

“The Ministry of Education is responsible to maintain the employment rate—isn’t that ridiculous? The Ministry of Education should feel guilty because students nowadays cannot make full use of what they learn in college, and what they learn in college has no use for their career path. Colleges are like companies; teachers are like bosses; students decrease to the tool for colleges and teachers to compete for fames and profits. The education in mainland China has collapsed.” mused user @M3MStudio.

Despite such gloom, Xu Mei, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, suggested that the employment rate and the number of graduating students’ signing employment contracts will increase largely in the coming June. At the same time, Xu assured that the Ministry would strike to “not decrease the employment rate of college graduates”—an act that netizens responded with sarcastic attitudes as user @寻找LostMyself worte, “The Ministry of Education’s prediction will be realized with a hundred percent sure because this is what it most good at. I believe every graduate know where the so-called rate of employment contract singing came from!”