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Higher Education and Graduate Employment in China: Challenges for Sustainable Development

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In the summer of 2013, the number of Chinese university graduates who did not know where to go after graduation reached an unprecedented 2 million. These graduates are not illegible to claim any benefits from social insurance schemes that based on formal employment. When away from home, neither do they have access to other supplementary benefits based on household registration status (hukou) financed and provided by the local governments of host cities. To address the issue of massive unemployment among graduates, the Chinese government has introduced a range of policy measures with an emphasis on ‘flexible employment’, an umbrella for several types of atypical jobs, while leaving the basic structure of social protection intact. This study reviews the development of the Chinese graduate employment policy with emphasis on the changes in the forefront of massive unemployment among graduates. By evaluating the effectiveness of policy measures, this study argues for a thorough reform of the higher education system.

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  1. Work unit, also danwei in Mandarin Chinese, refers to employers who are paying regular salaries as well as providing a package of welfare benefits to its employees. Work unit is therefore a platform on which social protection is delivered especially in urban China before economic reform in late 1970s. For more, see Chan et al. (2008).

  2. Here refers to the first employment rate reported to education authority in June and revealed to the general public in July. However, another employment rate, that is, final employment rate of university graduates, is normally released in December. The final employment rates in the past one decade have stayed at 10–15% higher than the first one. See Chan (2012) for more details.


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Chan, W. Higher Education and Graduate Employment in China: Challenges for Sustainable Development. High Educ Policy 28, 35–53 (2015).

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