Better job prospects lure more overseas Chinese students home

File photo showing university students in Melbourne, Australia.
File photo showing university students in Melbourne, Australia.PHOTO: NYTIMES

BEIJING • The number of Chinese students returning from abroad has grown by leaps and bounds due to better job prospects at home and tightening work and immigration policies overseas.

Last year, 608,400 students from China went abroad while 480,900 returned, according to the Ministry of Education.

Nearly 80 per cent of students chose to return to China after completing overseas studies last year, up from 30 per cent in 2007 and about 5 per cent in 1987.

The Report on Employment and Entrepreneurship of Chinese Returnees, based on a survey of 2,190 overseas returnees last month, was jointly released by the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing think-tank, and recruitment website Zhaopin.

It found that 41 per cent of respondents chose to return due to more job opportunities in China, while 27 per cent feared employment and immigration regulations abroad might hinder their career development.

Overseas-educated Chinese still prefer to work in China's first-tier cities after returning home.

About 20 per cent of respondents returning from overseas chose to work in Beijing, followed by Guangdong province (including Guangzhou and Shenzhen), at 14.6 per cent, and Shanghai, at 11.4 per cent.

Favourable policies for overseas-educated students played a big part in the influx of foreign-educated graduates to first-tier cities, said researcher Li Qing at the think-tank in charge of compiling the report.

Returnee Zhang Xiaobing, who earned an MBA from the University of Toronto in 2016, set up a human resources firm in Beijing's Zhongguancun Science Park.

"I came back to start a business... because I love the atmosphere and I see the opportunities. The government has offered me great help in starting my business, including free rent, tax breaks and funds."

The report found that while 40 per cent of foreign-educated students found their first job within one month and nearly 95 per cent within half a year, 80 per cent earned less than they expected.

Marketing director Li Qiang of Zhaopin said the report highlights a large expectation gap among returning students, who he said were often overconfident and lacked knowledge about the best channels to find work, and what skills employers were looking for.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Better job prospects lure more overseas Chinese students home'. Print Edition | Subscribe