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A job fair held in Hong Kong on 7 May is embroiled in controversy after it was revealed that the numbers were swelled by dozens of people who were paid to pretend to be applicants. The fake applicants were apparently recruited via WeChat.
The measure was taken to artificially boost fair numbers and make it appear better attended. The scandal was first brought to light by a SCMP investigation.
The event was held in the grand ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, with hundreds of budding job seekers packed into recruiter booths. Salaries on offer were apparently as high as three million yuan (US$433,000) for some professional vacancies across the border in Mainland China.
The job fair was apparently organised by the government of Ningbo, (a major port and industrial hub south of Shanghai) and attracted more than 50 recruiters, including universities, state-owned enterprises, private companies and NGOs.
According to a statement by the Ningbo Human Resources Service Centre, 820 positions were available, offering an average annual salary of 300,000 to 500,000 yuan.
In the week prior to the job fair, an advert was circulated via messaging service WeChat to hire part-time actors to increase numbers at the job fair.
The advert stated: “You need to prepare a résumé and wait for an interview, which will be conducted for appearance sake. A salary of HK$200 will be paid at the scene. Only nine places are left now. Add me as a friend if you are interested. I will put you into a chat group.”
When asked about the arrangement, Luo Jiamin, an official involved in the job fair at the Ningbo Human Resources Service Centre, said it had hired three recruitment agencies to arrange suitable people for the job fair, and provided “transport allowances” for those who attended.
“We understand that it’s now the final exam season in Hong Kong and many graduates may be tied up. Therefore we commissioned these agencies to look for some eligible talents, and bring them to the fair at the time of event,” Luo was reported as saying in the SCMP.