The Chinese media has made much in recent weeks over a study showing nearly 70 percent of recent university graduates earn less than the average monthly income of a migrant worker.
But in spite of the shocking headlines, many commentators say that the situation is completely normal, a natural result of recent changes in China’s employment landscape and a fair deal for overworked laborers and students with diplomas but little real experience.
China Youth Daily noted the rapid expansion of university enrollment in recent years, saying that there has been a transformation from “elite education” to “mass education.”
The official newspaper of the country’s Communist Youth League, China Youth Daily first reported the study last month, but took a measured tone in interpreting its results.
“’Level of education’ is not the only standard for determining how high or low someone’s salary will be. We must also consider the industry, the position, and other factors.”
“Students and migrant workers are completely different groups,” the article continued, saying that because of the clear difference between mental and physical labor, the two groups “honestly can’t be compared.”
The article went on to say that the belief that migrant workers’ income should be lower than that of new graduates is based upon “society’s long-term discrimination” against migrants.
“Considering their working environment and the difficulty of their jobs, migrant workers’ income should have gone up long ago,” the newspaper said.
Columnist Wang Junrong of the Wuhan Morning Post agreed, declaring himself to be “truly disgusted” by “never-ending” comparisons between students and migrant workers.
At the same time, many commentators listed reasons why recent graduates did not necessarily deserve high salaries.
“They lack real work experience, and most require the help and guidance of seasoned coworkers to be able to finish their work without any problems,” said the Chongqing Morning Post.
“This is why 70 percent of graduates have a salary less than 2,000 yuan.”
Others cautioned that undeservedly high salaries would be harmful to graduates in the long run.
“How many successful people’s first steps were difficult?” asked the Spring City Evening News. “In those [early] years, the richest man in Asia Li Ka-shing was still just a salesman.”
The newspaper dismissed hand-wringing over graduates’ supposedly low salaries. “This kind of attitude leaves students with no way to quietly contemplate their future career and no way to find their role.”
“The final result is that they can only live obsessing over their salary, and end up losing themselves.”