Guangzhou, China, a city with a population of 15 million, is the hub of a manufacturing region where factories make everything from T-shirts and shoes to auto parts, tablet computers and solar panels. Despite the factories offering double-digit annual pay increases and better benefits, many are desperate for workers.
Wang Zengsong is desperate for a steady job. He has been unemployed for most of the three years since he graduated from a community college here after growing up on a rice farm. Mr. Wang, 25, has worked only several months at a time in low-paying jobs, once as a shopping mall guard, another time as a restaurant waiter and most recently as an office building security guard. But he will not consider applying for a full-time factory job because Mr. Wang, as a college graduate, thinks that is beneath him. Instead, he searches every day for an office job, which would initially pay as little as a third of factory wages.
“I have never and will never consider a factory job — what’s the point of sitting there hour after hour, doing repetitive work?” he asked. Millions of recent college graduates in China like Mr. Wang are asking the same question. A result is an anomaly: Jobs go begging in factories while many educated young workers are unemployed or underemployed. A national survey of urban residents, released this winter by a Chinese university, showed that among people in their early 20s, those with a college degree were four times as likely to be unemployed as those with only an elementary school education.
Quite fascinating. This has been a recurring theme in Chinese civilization that hindered China's technological development: the most educated minds did not apply themselves to manual labor. Such a society could not produce an industrial revolution. And that midset has been the rule rather than the exception in most human societies, which is why industrialization has been rare and very late in human history.