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Dilemma over volunteering or job hunting
30 May 2007

An Olympic volunteer poses beside the 2008 Beijing Olympics volunteer logo. More than 480,000 people applied to become volunteers for the 2008 summer Olympics. (China Daily)An Olympic volunteer poses beside the 2008 Beijing Olympics volunteer logo. More than 480,000 people applied to become volunteers for the 2008 summer Olympics. (China Daily)
Beijing, China: Most of the Olympic Games volunteers are university students. While they are keen to help out during the international event, they are also concerned about finding a paying job and choose the latter instead.

A recent survey of 306 people shows that almost all the interviewees are worried about employment, with 49.9 per cent saying getting a job and a heavy study load were their biggest obstacles, particularly for university students. They are not only busy with their schoolwork, but also job-hunting and eager to become Olympic volunteers at the same time.

"Everyone is obsessed about this," said Chen Ye, who took part in the survey.

Chen, a freshman studying at China Petroleum University, is now a reserve volunteer leading the Beijing Olympic cheering squad and each weekend, he has to get up as early as 4.30am to catch the first bus for his training course.

The survey also found about one-third of respondents say plenty too much time and energy is spent on training, which may hold up schoolwork and job opportunities.

"You can't expect our universities to adjust our exam schedules to accommodate our volunteer training times, "the industrious guy said, who have made use of every bit of time to make up for his lessons. He said he has schoolwork on top of voluntary services.

Studying and job-hunting are colliding with the increasing frequency of pre-training courses which were the interviewees' top concerns, making 36.8 percent of the total; another 20.9 percent believe frequent absences from work because of training for the Games would result in a salary-deduction, and a small group say having to juggle volunteering and work could even lead to job dismissals.

Instructors who organize students' events at universities are worried that even though students want to volunteer for next year's Olympics, only a small group will be accepted in the end.

"Senior students kept asking me how they can deal with the conflict between jobs and helping out with the Games if they are chosen to be a volunteer," said one teacher.

"If I get a job and volunteer for the Games, will my employer keep the job for me for one month?" asked Yang Yiwen, a first-rank graduate who will start job-hunting next year. She is looking for prospective companies that will retain her position if she becomes an Olympic volunteer. "I guess any profit-oriented company will never let me volunteer," she thinks.

Over 20 percent of those surveyed are worried their employer will either likely deduct their salary or even fire them for taking more than 10 days off. And this fear could lead to fewer people willing to give up their time to contribute to this international sporting event.

Yang also suggested that there should be a policy to protect volunteers hopefuls put in place as soon as possible. She says employers should not be able to dismiss those who will be volunteering at the Games.

And an official with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) says they are working on this.

"We have submitted the plan on suggesting the government should issue a policy to protect volunteers' rights, and at the same time, employers should treat their employees fairly for volunteering in the Games," said the officer in charge of the Volunteers Department for BOCOG

But right now there aren't any clear regulations on volunteers' rights. They need to negotiate with their employers since BOCOG won't make up such rules, the officer explained.