BEIJING (Reuters) - Some Chinese universities have inflated graduate employment figures by issuing bogus work contracts as millions struggle to find work amid the downturn, an official newspaper said on Tuesday.
The financial crisis has intensified the problem of graduate unemployment, which stems from rapidly increasing enrolment at Chinese universities, many of which fail to adequately train their graduates.
If widespread, this could cast doubt on recent official reports that graduate unemployment has now substantially eased, with an estimated 6.1 million new graduates in China this year.
China's leaders fear widespread disillusionment amongst youngsters could spark unrest.
The China Daily said some universities, particularly second tier ones, had been "faking" work contracts or employment agreements for graduates to fudge employment rates and deliver satisfactory performance reports to officials.
In internet chatrooms such as Tianya (www.tianya.cn), recent postings by graduates suggest the problem exists in provinces across China including Guangdong, Hubei, Zhejiang and Shaanxi.
"Faking employment rates is not an isolated case and it has existed for years in China," an unnamed education expert was quoted as saying by the China Daily.
The official People's Daily reported this week that 84 percent of new graduates had found jobs by June, up from the same period a year ago and a sharp contrast with earlier reports of students battling in vain to nail down work.
In March, authorities in southern Guangdong province said only 10 percent of its graduates had found work.
The reputation of Chinese universities is often linked to the ability of graduates to find work, which may have led second tier schools to gloss over their figures, the China Daily reported.
At some universities, failure to secure employment can sometimes mean students aren't issued with diplomas, forcing students to seek fake work contracts.
The Ministry of Education said nearly two-thirds of this year's graduates had found jobs by early July, the paper added. But other research suggests the fraction is far lower.
Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie