China’s tech giants go on hiring spree for fresh graduates despite Beijing’s crackdown on the sector

By Josh Ye

Alibaba, ByteDance, and Meituan are hiring thousands of new graduates as competition for new talent heats up. Amid a historic crackdown on China’s tech sector, companies are also working to eliminate 996 work culture and answer Beijing’s call to boost employment. — SCMP

Four of China’s biggest technology titans have each kicked off massive recruitment drives on thousands of college campuses across China, despite Beijing authorities’ historic crackdown on the sector that continues to disrupt business.

In the past two months, TikTok owner ByteDance, on-demand delivery service Meituan and e-commerce giants and Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post, have all launched recruitment campaigns for 2022. Alibaba called its recruitment drive the company’s “largest ever”, according to a statement on July 20, with 113 available positions, 45 of which are open to new graduates for the first time.

Meituan is looking to hire as many as 10,000 new graduates to join the company next year, marking an exponential increase from its target of 3,000 this year, according to the state-owned Qianjiang Evening News. Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Group is planning to hire 250% more graduates in 2022 than it is targeting this year, according to Chinese media outlet Tech Planet. The number of new jobs available at next year is also 30% higher than this year, Tech Planet reported.

Chinese colleges and universities are expected to pump nine million fresh graduates into the job market this summer, and another 10 million next year, putting huge employment pressure on the world’s second-largest economy. On top of this, Beijing’s crackdown has put pressure on tech companies to align their priorities with the national government’s interests, which include new cybersecurity rules and a push for technological self-reliance in strategic areas.

Even as Beijing has sought to rein in the influence of Big Tech companies since late 2020 – an effort that has included delaying or ending planned IPOs, numerous investigations and fines, resulting in plummeting stock prices – competition within the industry remains fierce. Ding Daoshi, director of research at Beijing-based Internet consultancy Sootoo, said that companies’ push into many emerging tech sectors such as semiconductors and artificial intelligence are pitting them against each other in a race for talent.

“In recent years, our focus has been on breaking free of the technology chokehold by the West and companies in the West,” Ding said. “So this requires a lot of talented people doing research and development for companies.”

The result is that, despite a tense political environment, tech giants are jockeying for the best new talent emerging from the country’s universities. Companies such as Alibaba, ByteDance, Huawei Technologies Co and all have north of 100,000 employees, with the average age ranging from 27 to 31 years old.

Tencent Holdings, China’s dominant social media and gaming company, already kicked off its largest-ever recruitment campaign last year, with the goal of bringing in 5,000 new graduates in 2021, a 42% jump over last year.

Li Chengdong, founder of Dolphin Think Tank in Beijing, said that tech companies are creating more positions for fresh graduates because of a push to eliminate the industry’s notorious 996 work culture. The number refers to an unofficial work schedule from 9am to 9pm, six days per week, which has become a widely criticised standard at many Chinese tech companies.

With both public scrutiny and regulatory pressure mounting, however, Chinese tech giants are now working to reduce hours for employees.

“What used to be one person’s job may now be shared by two people,” Li said.

Aggressive recruitment drives are also a response to the government’s call to increase employment among new graduates, according to Li. And there have been rising concerns about underemployment, as many graduates take up low-paying jobs that do not utilise their degrees.

Despite recent efforts to attract new talent, aggressive recruitment campaigns are not sustainable over the long term, said Jimmy Zhao, managing partner at the Shenzhen-based headhunting firm HRPartners.

“The fight for talent has existed for a long time,” Zhao said. “But it is uncertain whether these big Internet companies can keep expanding like they have been going forward.” – South China Morning Post

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