Sharon Lee (李宇軒), who finished her bachelor’s degree last month, is not excited about joining the “real world.” The 22-year-old has sent out 30 resumes since March, looking for a job that pays NT$25,000 a month.
Her expectations may seem reasonable enough, but Lee is bracing for a protracted search that could take months more as the recession dampens job opportunities.
The unemployment rate, which hit a record 5.82 percent in May, is likely to have topped 6 percent last month, when university and college seniors graduated and joined the ranks of job hunters.
The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) is due to unveil figures for last month on Wednesday. The statistics agency has warned that the labor market has yet to hit bottom, even though the downturn has showed signs of letup.
Lee has cause for concern. Since graduation, not one of her 230 classmates from the department of journalism at Shih Hsin University has landed a job.
There are about 287,000 new graduates this year. A survey by the Ministry of Education found that 44 percent of them intend to seek employment, with the remainder either seeking a higher degree or doing their military service.
The government has sponsored internships and encouraged new graduates to continue education to blunt the effect on the unemployment rate. Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and other Cabinet officials concede that job hunting is challenging in the current economic environment.
A survey by 104 Job Bank (104人力銀行) found there were approximately 64,000 entry-level job openings, a drop of 42.8 percent from the same time last year.
Monica Chiu (邱文仁), marketing director of 104 Job Bank, said many companies turned down entry-level applicants because it could take three to six months of training before they become productive.
Jennifer Hong (洪雪珍), manager of Yes 123 Job Bank, said first-time job seekers had an average of 79 rival applicants per job, compared with 31 last year.
“It could take seven months to find employment,” Hong said. “They shouldn’t lose heart.”
DGBAS figures put the average unemployment period for job seekers at 27.4 weeks, or 38.4 weeks for first-time job seekers.
Hong advised new job seekers not to attach too much importance to their starting salary and other benefits.
Amy Li (李品慧), 22, who graduated last month from Shih Chien University, is looking for a nine-to-five job as an administrative assistant on weekdays so that she can keep her part-time weekend job selling health products.
Li, a resident of Banciao (板橋), Taipei County, who majored in preschool education, said she has given up hoping for a preschool job because the field is overcrowded.
“Anyway, being a preschool teacher is not that desirable in light of the low wages and low mobility” Li said.
Jobs in administration and customer service are the most popular among new graduates because they require little expertise. But firms that can afford to hire need sales staffers to boost revenues.
With profits sinking, employers usually cut entry-level salaries, with applicants with higher education seeing the biggest drop.
New graduates with bachelor’s degrees are offered an average of NT$27,257 a month, down 5.5 percent from last year, while applicants with master’s degrees are offered NT$30,517, down 8.9 percent from last year, 104 Job bank said.
The 1111 Job Bank (1111人力銀行) estimated starting salaries at NT$24,582 for new college graduates, down 5.78, while Yes 123 put the figure at NT$23,000.
Yang Yu-ching (楊育青), another graduate from Shih Hsin University, said the sum was acceptable, given the cutthroat competition.
Yang wants to find a job in media or public relations, but may broaden her search if she can’t find what she is looking for.
But Yang, a resident of Kaohsiung, said she was not anxious.
“There’s no hurry since I just finished college,” she said.
Lin Hsien-ya (林賢雅), vice manager of communications at the 1111 online job portal, said vague ideas of one’s goals contributes to a high jobless rate among college graduates, who constitute 5.63 percent of the nation’s 633,000 unemployed.
Lin said many young job seekers also demonstrate a lack of passion and respect for their work, although they are often more malleable and less expensive than hiring more experienced employees.
“These qualities help explain why 45 percent of new college graduates last year were unable to find full-time jobs within six months, while another 18 percent had [already] quit,” Lin said.
Unlike Yang, Lee, a resident of Kinmen, where employment opportunities are limited, is considering a government-funded internship.
Although the salary is low at NT$22,000 a month and the position only lasts a year, “a short-term job is better than none,” Lee said.
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