The Ministry of Education vowed to crack down on some universities' act of "sugarcoating" or falsifying dissatisfying graduates' employment figures, it said, adding that it has dispatched teams to inspect the work.
In a statement released on Friday, the ministry said the teams are vetting materials provided by universities on graduates' employment, making calls to companies to verify their employment status, and going through tips and clues on suspected violations, such as signing of fake employment agreements or providing jobless graduates with employment certificates.
The ministry stipulated that universities should not force graduates to sign employment contracts in any form, including by threatening to withhold their diplomas. In addition, it said universities should not set unrealistic targets for students' career counselors and supervising teachers, or lower their performance-based salaries or promotion chances simply based on employment figures.
As the number of graduates quickly grows, the competition they face to land satisfying jobs has become fiercer in recent years. The surveyed unemployment rate for people aged 16 to 24 stood at 21.3 percent in June, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, surpassing previous record highs for three consecutive months.
According to a Beijing Youth Daily report, student counselors have pushed graduates who were still contemplating their future to sign an employment agreement, often referred to as the "tri-party agreement", a form signed by the graduate, school and employer showing the graduate has landed a formal job.
The signed agreements are tied with the employment rate that universities publish annually, and even with the viability of the college majors, as per the requirement of the Ministry of Education, majors with employment rates less than 60 percent for two consecutive years are accorded fewer enrollment slots and could even be canceled.
The Beijing Youth Daily report said that supervising teachers are doing all they can, sometimes sugarcoating the figures, to raise the numbers. For example, a supervising teacher at a college in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region told graduates who were still unemployed to "pull strings" to sign an agreement with any company, regardless of whether they would actually work there. To deal with the authentication work that sometimes follows the signing of a work agreement, supervisors would alert graduates to "remember" the companies they have signed for.
In addition, some companies are offering to include graduates on their employee list for a fee. The report said that an online vendor on Taobao marketplace, for example, provided several names of companies that graduates could choose to sign agreements with and said it could handle follow-up survey calls. That typically would cost 68 to 98 yuan ($9.50 to $14).
The reporter paid for such a service and registered a made-up student with a company, then called the company to verify the employment status. The company replied without hesitation that the student "worked as an assistant" there.
The Ministry of Education said it has "zero tolerance" for such violations. It released phone numbers and email addresses that will receive tips and complaints and added it will go through every one of the clues it received, rectify them and punish those responsible for fraud.
It will entrust the National Bureau of Statistics and third-party agencies to conduct nationwide surveys on the authenticity of the reported whereabouts of this year's 11.6 million graduates, while cooperating with human resources agencies to help the unemployed graduates, the ministry said.