Even China Law Students Realizing Les Jobs Than Graduates In Law

The WSJ blog has this great story about a Chinese legal graduate who’s making a future in noodles instead


A Peking University law student who was worried about finding a job and set up a noodle shop last month has become a social media sensation.

Zhang Tianyi has won online praise for his entrepreneurial spirit – though the 24-year-old has attracted heaps of criticism that he is wasting his skills. But his effort has struck a chord with many college graduates who are also finding it hard to land a job.

This week he got an official pat on the back from a senior government official who hailed Mr. Zhang, likening him to hugely successful entrepreneurs like Jack Ma, who founded Alibaba and turned it into an e-commerce powerhouse.

“I’d like to try those noodles,” said Xin Changxing, vice minister of human resources and social security, speaking at a news briefing. “He’s innovating and looking for a market niche.”

The law student who started all the online chatter, a native of the southern province of Hunan, is about to graduate from law school. But employment prospects aren’t looking so great so he teamed up with three fellow students and set up shop in a 37-square-meter basement of an office building in Beijing’s financial district.

Mr. Zhang told China Real Time that apart from his passion for hometown delicacies, he started his own business because he couldn’t line up a job in the legal profession.

“It’s difficult to find good jobs and the jobs we can find are not so good,” said Mr. Zhang who had a double major in English and law as an undergraduate.

Mr. Zhang said his shop serves up 4,000-5,000 bowls of noodles per day.

“We work from dawn to dusk, but we’ve learned a lot,” the law student said.

Most college graduates in China expect to work in white collar jobs, not in the kitchen serving beef noodles to white collar workers.

China’s market for factory jobs has remained strong even as the economy starts to show slower growth. But college graduates are having more trouble finding work as universities continue to crank out armies of graduates. The government expects a record 7.27 million college graduates in 2014, the State Council, or the cabinet, said last week. It has rolled out a series of measures, including loans and tax breaks, to encourage graduates to start their own business. (in Chinese)

The vice minister also called for students to be bold and emulate Jack Ma, adding that only 1% of the nation’s college graduates start their own business.

“When Jack Ma first started his business, he didn’t know it would grow into Alibaba,” he said.

Online discussion, however, has not been entirely favorable.

“It’s a waste of educational resources. After four years of undergraduate plus three years of graduate studies, you end up selling rice noodles?” one Weibo user wrote.

“You don’t care about your investment but the government’s investment in your education has all gone for nothing. It’s like a soldier fleeing from a battle,” said another.

One reason why many college graduates prefer working for big state companies rather than starting their own business is that these employers can get them a hukou, or residence permit for big cities like Beijing. The permit entitles holders to access subsidized education and social services and is especially hard to obtain for big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, deterring many people from small towns or the countryside from finding work in the cities.

China is trying to do something about that but it will take time.

Asked about that barrier to other future noodle shop operators, the vice minister said: “Entrepreneurs can go to other cities; hukou is not a problem there.