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Most Chinese students return to China for jobs after studying abroad

Students from China make up a tremendous proportion of international students on campuses across the globe. The Ministry of Education has released a blue paper on the trends of Chinese students going abroad for education and coming home for jobs. Zhong Shi joins me in the studio with more details.

Q1. Talk to us about the trends outlined in the blue paper.

A1. Let me start with the trend that most of those educated abroad, or 80 percent specifically, choose to come back to China for employment after graduation. According to the blue paper, more women choose to come home than men. About 60 percent of all returnees are female. And those coming home to join the job market have fancy degrees to back them up. Eighty percent of those returning have a master’s. Ten percent have a doctorate. Just less than 10 percent come home with only a bachelor’s degree. In terms of what countries are the most popular destinations. The top 5 are the UK, the US, Australia, South Korea and Japan. Let me point out the UK is a particularly hot choice for graduate studies. Over 40 percent of returnees with a master’s degree went to grad school in the UK. Experts say that’s because most master’s programs in Britain last only a year, so it saves both time and money. The programs you study depend on the level of degree you’re pursuing. But it’s easy to spot that there seems to be a general preference for economics and finance programs with Chinese students.

Q2. In terms of degrees, these returnees do seem to have an impressive resume to start with when they look for a job back home. What are their job preferences? Is the money they spend on an overseas education paying off?

A2. I’ll get to that in just a minute. Here’s what they want for their jobs. Seventy-five percent say they would like to work on the more developed east coast. No surprise there, more robust economies, more job opportunities. What’s changed is that now fewer returnees are willing to work in China’s mega-cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. That is because those who choose to study abroad have come from more diverse regions in China in the first place. More of them are now willing to go back to their hometowns to work. The fact is the job market in first tier cities is inevitably more competitive. Chances are it’s easier to find a job, and even a better paying job in smaller cities. In terms of sectors, most returnees want to work in finance which is consistent with what most went abroad for in the first place. That’s followed by education, culture, and the information technology sectors. The blue paper does show, however, that the value of an overseas degree seems to be on the decline when it comes to how much returnees are getting paid. Close to 50 percent of master degree holders make less than 5 thousand yuan. That’s less than 800 US dollars a month. Those with doctorates make between 5 and 10 thousand yuan a month. So if it’s a big salary you’re aiming for when you consider going abroad to study, you will need to be very careful with your choices.