Queues stretch hundreds of metres around temples in China on weekends, as despondent young worshippers pray to find jobs in an economy slowly clawing its way back from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I hope to find some peace in temples,” said 22-year-old Wang Xiaoning, pointing to “the pressure of finding a job” and housing costs that are out of reach.
Wang is among a record 11.58 million university graduates who face a job market still reeling from last year’s stringent “zero-COVID” lockdowns as well as crackdowns on the technology and education sectors, key traditional hirers.
Temple visits are up 310% so far this year compared to 2022, travel booking platform Trip.com said. While it did not give overall numbers or pre-pandemic comparisons, it said roughly half the visitors were born after 1990.
“The threshold for employment keeps rising,” said Chen, a 19-year-old who was praying for her career prospects at the iconic Lama Temple in the capital, Beijing, despite being years away from graduation.
China’s education and human resource ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The number of master’s and Ph.D graduates in Beijing exceeds undergraduates for the first time, education authorities said.
Job and academic anxieties were “understandable”, the state-backed Beijing Daily said in an editorial in March.
However, young people who really pin their hopes on the gods and Buddhas when under pressure are also clearly going astray.”