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    More Chinese Graduates Are Taking Jobs in Small Cities, Report Finds

    Graduates are increasingly choosing to seek employment in counties and towns, where there are more opportunities to secure stable public sector jobs.
    Apr 17, 2024#labor

    Chinese college graduates are increasingly choosing to leave the country’s major cities and seek employment in smaller towns and counties, a new report has found.

    The survey of young Chinese by education consultancy Mycos detected a “significant increase” in the number of fresh graduates taking jobs outside first-tier cities. In 2018, only 20% of respondents were working in counties and towns six months after graduation, but this figure rose to 25% in 2022.

    The company attributed the increase to a number of factors, including graduates wanting to move closer to family and avoid the grueling pressure that often comes with working in big cities. Counties and towns also offer “more opportunities to enter the ‘system,’” the company said, referring to public sector jobs.

    A large number of graduates working in counties and towns were employed in the public sector, the report found. Male respondents in this group were most likely to work in government and public administration roles, while females were most likely to work in the education sector.

    The report indicates that graduates who had left big cities were generally satisfied with their careers. Nearly 60% of respondents working in counties and towns had been in the same place for at least five years; their average monthly income had increased from 4,640 yuan ($641) in 2018 to 5,377 yuan in 2022; and their average job satisfaction rate had risen from 67% to 76% over the same period.

    The findings reflect a significant shift in priorities among young Chinese. For decades, graduates overwhelmingly chose to start their careers in major cities, where the highest-paying and most prestigious jobs tend to be clustered. But that has begun to change as living costs in the big cities continue to rise and the competition for graduate jobs becomes ever more intense.

    New policy initiatives designed to lure graduates back to their home regions have also played a role. For example, Suichang County in eastern China’s Zhejiang province has found success with its scheme, which offers master’s degree holders a 300,000 yuan housing subsidy and a 30,000 yuan annual living allowance for five years if they come to work for a local employer.

    Yang Peng, a 27-year-old from Xiushui County in eastern China’s Jiangxi province, is one of many young people who decided to return home after a brief taste of big city life. After finishing his master’s degree in the U.K. in September 2022, he returned to China and took a job in Shanghai, but the work was too intense for him to bear. After two months, he quit and informed his parents he was moving back to Xiushui.

    “It was like riding a roller coaster, and I could hardly breathe,” said Yang.

    Moving home seemed like a no-brainer, Yang said. He would be close to his girlfriend, who had stayed in Jiangxi for college and then landed a civil service job in Xiushui. He also felt it was important to be close to his family. He still remembers how terrible he felt when he was living abroad during the pandemic and wasn’t able to be there for his mother when she fell ill.

    “My quality of life is better in the county than in Shanghai, as I can spend time with my parents, help develop the family business, and build my relationship with my girlfriend,” Yang told Sixth Tone on Wednesday.

    (Header image: Job seekers at the Hebei zone during a job fair at the China International Exhibition Center in Beijing, March 30, 2024. VCG)