At China’s job fairs, employers are thrifty and applicants shy

BEIJING, Feb 20 (Reuters) – China’s job fairs are making a comeback after being forced online by COVID-19 for three years, but moderate wages and fewer offers in sectors exposed to the weakening external demand point to an uneven and cautious economic recovery.

Authorities have announced hundreds of such events across the country this month, the latest sign that China is returning to its pre-COVID way of life and youth unemployment a major headache for Beijing. , could decrease after its peak of almost 20%.

In a country of 1.4 billion people, job fairs are one of the most effective ways for employers and workers to connect. Although attendees said their long-awaited return was encouraging, some were not overflowing with confidence.

“I only pray for a stable job and I don’t have high salary expectations,” said Liu Liangliang, 24, who was looking for a job at a hotel or property management company at a fair in Beijing on Thursday. , one of more than 40. held in the capital in February. “The COVID outbreak has hurt many people. There will be more job seekers fighting for offers this year.”

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Job-related anxiety is prevalent.

A survey of around 50,000 white-collar workers released Thursday by Zhaopin, one of China’s largest recruiting firms, showed 47.3% of respondents worried about losing their jobs this year, compared to 39.8% one year ago.

Around 60% cited the “uncertain economic environment” as the main factor affecting their confidence, up from 48.4% in 2022.

The job confidence of people working in sectors in direct contact with consumption, which recover more quickly from a weak base, was higher than in sectors such as manufacturing, affected by the weakening of external demand, or real estate, which is just starting to show tentative signs of stabilizing, the survey showed.

A human resources manager at the Beijing Xiahang Jianianhua hotel, who only gave his surname Zhang, said his company had three times as many job openings compared to a year ago, when the Chinese resumed their travels.

In contrast, Jin Chaofeng, whose company exports rattan outdoor furniture, said he has no plans to increase his payroll as orders from overseas slow.

“People in my industry are waiting and seeing, cautiously,” he said, adding that he planned to cut production by 20-30% in March from a year earlier.

Frederic Neumann, chief Asia economist at HSBC, expects the services and manufacturing sectors to operate at very different speeds this year, but said overall employment in China is expected to rise.

“Restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues are now scrambling to hire staff. This is especially helpful for younger workers,” Neumann said. “The youth unemployment rate is expected to start falling in the coming months.”

China’s economy grew 3% last year, in one of its weakest performances in nearly half a century. Policymakers should aim for growth of around 5%, which would still be below the blistering pace before the pandemic.

This is partly because the pain caused by the strict COVID rules persists.

At another job fair in the capital, Wei, a former housekeeper seeking similar work, said she and her unemployed husband were struggling with credit card debt .

Wei, who has a child in elementary school and would not give his full name, citing his private life, quit his previous job last year after his employer wanted to cut his salary to 3,200 yuan (465, $34) per month against 3,500 yuan despite his demands. she works late to perform COVID-related disinfection.

“We owe the banks hundreds of thousands of yuan,” she said. “We are extremely anxious.”

($1 = 6.8767 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Additional Reporting by Xiaoyu Yin Editing by Marius Zaharia and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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