Upon graduating from university, is it better to try starting a business or to find a job?

A discussion with Chinese youth on their future careers during the 75th anniversary of the United Nations

August 20, 2020

Beijing, August 20 -- UNDP successfully held today an online youth debate today in collaboration with United Nations Volunteers, the International Labour Organization, and Tencent. Youth representatives and special guests gathered online to discuss the question, “upon graduating from university, is it better to try starting a business or to find a job?”

The event was part of the UN75 Youth Dialogue, which has been launched by the United Nations in China and Tencent to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, to amplify the voices of the young generation in China, with a focus on the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Debaters and observers started signing up for this event in early June. After a competitive application process with over 3000 applicants, eight youth representatives with various backgrounds made it to the final stage and were separated into two opposing sides. They received professional guidance from the coaches in Peking University and China University of Political Science and Law, and brought a heated and vigorous debate to audience.

In addition, the event was anchored by Tian Wei from CGTN and four special guests were invited to join and share their comments: Beate Trankmann, the Resident Representative of the UNDP China, Liu Qian, the Managing Director of the Economist Group in Greater China, Luo Zhenyu, the alumni of Qingteng University, chairman of Siweizaowu, and founder of Dedao, and Jiang Sida, the show producer and host.

With the economic pressures brought on by COVID-19, college graduates in 2020 are facing a difficult graduation year. To get a job or to start a business first has become an importantconsideration for graduates. Meanwhile, it also deeply changes the idea of work for the young generation.

In order to help 8.74 million college graduates step into society smoothly, the Ministry of Education is creating more job opportunities and actively encouraging graduates to work in major national projects and important fields. Meanwhile, graduates will also be guided to work at local levels and encouraged to join the army. On July 15, the meeting of the standing committee of the State Council was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang to encourage people to start their own businesses and to make innovations, which supports the employment and entrepreneurship of college graduates.

Nowadays, young people have more diverse choices, and employment is no longer the only option. However, when making a decision, they have to take into account not only their development path, but also the working environment, the current economic situation and social trends. The "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" set by the UN in 2015 include Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth and Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Both starting a business and joining a company can contribute to the SDGs from different dimensions.

The Resident Representative of UNDP China Beate Trankmann said: “Today’s debate is about what kind of future each of us wants for ourselves, but our individual futures are reliant upon a sustainable future for humanity and the planet as a whole. As such, we must also consider how each of us can help to make this collective future a reality. This is also the focus of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

Among the debaters, He Songzhang, a visually impaired youth who once tried to start his own business, took his business failure as for a reason for finding a job first. His teammate Hu Qiyuan, a journalist who formerly interned at UN headquarters in New York, shared the same point of view, and another teammate Shen Hehe, who currently works in a startup company in Silicon Valley, argued that working in a company allows young people to be better prepared for greater well-being. Li Yida, a post-graduate student at the University of Sydney, was the last one to summarize hisopinion that young people who are doing ordinary jobs are able to fulfill their values as well.

On the other hand, entrepreneurs of social good projects, Wang Hupa, Tong Yuwen and Zhang Chaofan, shared the opinion that managing their own projects help them to better support vulnerable communities and benefit society. Their teammate Xia Tiemu, a first-grade student in Peking University, argued that a better way to navigate a young person’s development is to be an entrepreneur first, exactly the opposite of Shen Hehe’s perspective.

The debaters’ performance in the first four rounds of debate were separately commented on by Beate Trankmann, Liu Qian, Luo Zhenyu and Jiang Sida. The guests also gave out suggestions to the young debaters.

According to the rules of the debate, the entrepreneurship team “won” because there was an increase in the final number of votes for starting a business compared to the number at the beginning, indicating that more people were convinced by their argument. In addition to the 4 debaters of the winning team, the other 12 people who entered the semifinals will also receive certificates from UNDP.

The online event ended with messages from guests to the youth participants. Liu Qian expected the young people to study well to have more career choices in the future, and Luo Zhenyu reminded them that the order of these two options are not equal to each other because entrepreneurs seldom go back to other companies.

Jiang Sida expressed his wish that young people could make achoice that gives themselves real happiness. “There's 439 million youth in China. It means 439 million situations and choices. That's a decision everyone has to make for themselves. And the most important view is how can I contribute to society,” said Beate Trankmann.

As the anchor Tian Wei concluded: “With the bravery to move forward, young people will find their own stages and opportunities to contribute to the sustainable development of society and human beings!” May young people who are either employed or entrepreneurial, feel happiness in it, realize their personal and social values, and help to accelerate the world's sustainable development towards 2030.