Collegiate E-trepreneurs

March 11, 2009

Toward the end of 2008, the Chinese government issued by way of Xinhua, the official state news agency, a directive that college students uneasy about the tight employment market should try starting their own businesses. At the time, urging naive, inexperienced kids to take on massive debt straight out of school when even established enterprises are tanking seemed like the CPC leading lambs to the slaughter to temporarily save its own hide. But a new effort by students in Zhejiang province has since come to light, and seems to hold promise for the scrappiest of the students here.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, nearly 1,800 students at Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College have opened online businesses on Taobao.com, the Chinese answer to Ebay. Some of these e-shops have really taken off, and the most successful student among them, a boy named Yang Fugang, is now bringing in 30,000 to 40,000 yuan a month (roughly 4,500 to 5,800 USD), more than many Chinese make in a year.

Yiwu College has encouraged this entrepreneurial spirit through the establishment of a self-employment school, which only accepts students with monthly profits exceeding 8,000 yuan. Students can earn credits by reaching profit benchmarks instead of taking courses, and with professors’ guidance, share practical knowledge and advice with new retailers. Marketing, pricing, and bargaining with suppliers are common discussion topics. 

Online shops are profiting as cash-strapped consumers turn to the Web in search of better deals. The trade volume from online shopping in China increased by 128.5 percent to 120 billion yuan (17.56 billion USD) in 2008, according to a report released by iResearch and Taobao.

This is promising news for savvy business students, but doesn’t really solve the wider problem of job creation. The unemployment rate here is growing by the day, though it’s almost impossible to measure given the vast number of unregistered migrant workers.

Fresh college graduates are among the groups most affected by the dearth of job opportunities. An estimated six million* new graduates will enter the job market this spring, adding to the 1.2 million leftover from last year who are still unable to find jobs. This can be attributed to a number of factors, but the bottom line is Beijing must find a way to placate the growing number of agitated grads and their parents. The government announced in February that all Beijing students would receive at least one suitable job offer within three months of graduation, though the spokesman declined to specify what constitutes a “suitable” offer. I bet most of them will be related to espionage. 

Only kidding, folks.

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