This is not about our society looking down its nose at working class jobs. No, it is about China’s college grads and, as the NY Times reports, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/business/as-graduates-rise-in-china-office-jobs-fail-to-keep-up.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, why most urban-educated students do not want to take advantage of the over supply of factory jobs. The student quoted in the piece says, ” I’m not afraid of hard work; it’s the lack of status..The more educated people are, the less they want to work in a factory.”
The irony of this story is that the more highly educated one is in China, the more likely one is to be unemployed. In fact, the rate of unemployment for 21-25 year olds with a college degree is twice that of those of the same age with only a high school education.
What I find so interesting in this story is that if a student graduates with a focus on engineering or science, then it is likely they will find employment with companies seeking to expand their business internationally. however, it appears that China is “churning out millions of graduates with few marketable skills, coupled with a conviction that they are entitled to office jobs with respectable salaries.” Sounds somewhat similar - despite the obvious difference between our economic models and higher ed systems – to the debate swirling here and in Europe about the linkage between educational attainment and employability.
Of course, the Chinese government is worried about the ever-growing number of college grads and the prospect of social instability. What comes to mind during our economic downturn was the Occupy movement which did focus on the 1% but then, it was not about the class distinctions which have always been at the core of our higher ed system – the so-called “elite” academic institutions and all the rest…and the fact that despite the increases in tuition, there was no major downturn in recent years in the numbers applying to the most expensive of our colleges and universities. And this was happening as families knew that it was getting tougher for grads to find work upon graduation. We are an ever-optimistic people after all.