Xu Nan, a Chinese student returning from America, thought that working in China would offer his prospects of a better career. Now he is disappointed with a starting salary that is lower than his expectations, and feels stressed and bleak in China’s intensive job market.
The number of college graduates in China was estimated to hit a record high of 72.7 million in 2014, surpassing last year ‘s outflow by 280,000, according to China’s Ministry of human resource and social security. This record number of graduates coming out of colleges is already putting a lot of pressure on job markets, but the number does not take into account a surge of Chinese overseas student returnees.
Turning back the clock to 20 years ago, returning overseas students had better opportunities to find a good job, but in today’s intensive job market, they have few advantages over local graduates.
Hard to stay overseas, but also hard to come home.
Difficulties in staying overseas
Xu Nan went to America with his parents as a high school student; after graduation he received two job offers in America, as a consultant in personal finance at Swiss Bank Corporation and as a financial analyst with Boeing. Although Xu believed that these were both good opportunities with good companies, he eventually decided to return China.
“I was asked to explain why I had left America in every job interview in China,” says Xu. “Honestly, I didn’t foresee a good career for myself if I stayed in America, and I believe it is highly unlikely that an Asian employee might become a CEO in America.”
Xu is confident that he could have achieved a comfortable life in America if he had stayed there, but he would have struggled to integrate into the mainstream of American culture and society. “I don’t feel a deep attachment to this country; I really don’t consider myself part of American society,” he says.
Zhang Xiao, another overseas student returnee, studied in the Netherlands and Italy, and graduated from the Politecnico di Milano, majoring in urban planning. He says that after graduation the only job he could find in Italy was as a low-paid elementary-level designer. So he returned home in search of a better life.
Job opportunities for overseas graduate students in some countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. have become tight as a result of sluggish economic growth and stricter visa regulations.
The UK used to offer UK graduates from overseas countries a two-year extended work visa to stay in the UK, but this automatic visa is no longer available, and it is not easy to extend the student visa, with the result that few international students stay in the UK.
Miss Wu was excited to start a different life in Britain, but she was surprised by the number of Chinese students on her British campus. A friend from the University of East Anglia confirmed that Chinese students dominate in the faculty of of news and media. “Chinese students were to be seen everywhere”, she says. The UK, like a number of countries, has gradually cancelled its preferential policies for international students, as large groups of foreign graduates are now threatening their local job market.
Wu says that some Chinese with extensive work experience in China or who have studied in UK for many years can overcome the language barrier, but for people like her, who have studied only a one-year Master’s degree in the UK, language is a major barrier to finding a job. Miss Wu was forced to return China because of visa and language issues.