Published: 10:46, February 15, 2023 | Updated: 10:46, February 15, 2023
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Culture, jobs lure graduates back to China
By Cheng Si

Returning students favor lifestyle at home, upbeat on economy, survey says

People look for jobs at a career fair in Huai'an, Jiangsu province, on Jan 14, 2023. More than 2,000 vacancies involving accounting, marketing and logistics were offered by local firms. (ZHANG ZHAOJIU / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Chinese students who have graduated overseas have shown a greater willingness to return and work in the Chinese mainland because of more convenient living circumstances and identification with the culture, according to a new report. The optimization of COVID-19 control policies has also improved the prospects of a promising career at home, said the report by recruitment portal Zhaopin.

The number of Chinese students who have graduated overseas wanting to land jobs in China saw a continuous increase from the start of the epidemic in early 2020, and reached a high in 2022.

In 2021, about 1.05 million of these graduates returned to the mainland for work, almost a twofold rise from 2020 when 580,300 returned to seek employment, according to the Ministry of Education.

Zhaopin conducted a survey of graduates who had returned, and found about 58 percent decided to come back to China because they preferred the convenient living environment, while 40 percent said it was because they identified with the culture.

Also, the optimized COVID-19 control policies have given Chinese students graduating overseas greater confidence in the nation's economic development in the near future, and strengthened their belief there are more job opportunities on the mainland.

There has been greater demand for overseas graduate returnees after the nation optimized the COVID control policies. From Jan 30 to Feb 3, the first week after the Spring Festival holiday, Zhaopin vacancies that prioritized overseas returnees increased by 11 percent from the previous week.

The vacancies gave priority to overseas returnees in sectors such as education, consultancy services and e-commerce, according to Zhaopin.

Increases in recruitment salaries are also playing a big role in attracting overseas returnees. Vacancies prioritizing overseas returnees offered an average recruitment salary of 14,680 yuan ($2,151) per month in 2022, a 7 percent rise from the previous year, the report said.

"I'm considering going back to China for work, mostly because I am more optimistic about China's economy in the next three or five years," said Li Ying, a 25-year-old postgraduate student in the United Kingdom. "And the culture and interpersonal relationships are also important elements. I get nostalgic sometimes, although I have friends here."

Li said that she has plans for a teaching career or working in a job with flexible hours.

She said she might take a gap year and do flexible jobs and find the sector she is really interested in. "I haven't decided about my future career yet, but I will go back to China for a job for sure."

To attract more Chinese graduates from overseas, governments at all levels have made efforts to introduce supportive policies in recent years.

Hongkou district in Shanghai, for example, launched a housing policy for overseas graduate returnees in 2021. Under the policy, returning Chinese students can enjoy a six-month rental allowance within two years of gaining an overseas postgraduate degree. The rental allowance ranges from 1,500 yuan to 3,000 yuan a month.

Zhu Jiaying, a member of the Hainan Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, has proposed Hainan build a talent pool of overseas returnees through supportive policies and allowances.

She suggested the province to first develop a detailed strategy to attract overseas students and give them preferential tax treatment.

Zhaopin, the recruitment portal, said that the recovery of the nation's economy after the optimization of the COVID policy will bring more job opportunities to overseas returnees this year. Returnee graduates will have a better chance of landing a job at home because of their international outlook and the availability of more channels providing employment information.