A record number of 7.95 million students graduated from Chinese universities and colleges this year. And for these graduates, where to start their career after graduation is a big decision to make. A recent survey shows that 82.66 percent of 2017 university graduates who responded plan to start their career in a new city rather than in their hometown; among them, 43.75 percent will opt for first-tier cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou), while 45.18 percent will choose second-tier cities such as Chengdu, Nanjing, Tianjin and Hangzhou.
Where to work after Uni
While first-tier Chinese cities continue to raise their thresholds for residence permits, many second-tier cities have rolled out a series of preferential policies to woo target graduates, including providing them with hukou, rent and housing subsidies.
For instance, Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, offers graduates residency permits even before they have found a job. Likewise, Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province, provides graduates with rent and housing subsidies.
The government in Wuhan, Hubei Province, also provides low-rent apartments to entrepreneurial graduates who start a business in the city.
But can these policies really entice graduates and young talents to live and work in second-tier cities? To gain an insight into the issue, the Global Times interviewed some Chinese university students in Shanghai and abroad.
Better career opportunities
Twenty-three-year-old Qiu Tianci from Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, is studying finance at Cardiff University in the UK, and expects to finish her master's program in November of 2017.
Qiu told the Global Times that the incentives launched by second-tier cities are attractive to her. "Hukou and housing are big challenges for university graduates, and if second-tier cities can provide graduates with hukou and housing subsidies, it will greatly reduce their daily living pressures and therefore many graduates might be willing to settle down in second-tier cities."
Despite this, Qiu said she still plans to go to Beijing or Shanghai to start her career because she believes first-tier cities will give her better work opportunities and the chance to broaden her horizons.
"My major is in finance and economics, and I also have overseas study experience. So I think there will be better work opportunities in big cities," she said. "Also, both of my parents strongly advise me to work in first-tier cities for a few years after graduating, because they believe work and living experience in Beijing or Shanghai can improve my outlook and prospects."
Another interviewee, 21-year-old Yuan Qiaodan from Anhui Province currently studies at Shanghai International Studies University.
Yuan said the packages launched by second-tier cities are attractive to her, because they can help reduce her financial burdens after graduation.
"The cost of rent is the main financial hardship for graduates, and many young people need support from their parents to pay rent in big cities. If second-tier cities can provide housing subsidies to graduates, it will greatly reduce young people's living pressure," she told the Global Times.
Apart from the financial aspect, Yuan added that career opportunities in second-tier cities are not necessarily fewer than those in first-tier cities.
"The development of some industries in second-tier cities has been very rapid. For instance, Hangzhou's Internet and e-retailing industries are among the forefront of all Chinese cities," Yuan added.
In terms of her plans after graduation, Yuan said Hangzhou and Shanghai are her top options. "During my undergraduate years in Shanghai I visited Hangzhou many times. The city left a good impression on me because it is developing so quickly and the everyday pressures are much less than in Shanghai," she said. "So if I could find ideal work opportunities in Hangzhou, then I would prefer it over Shanghai."
However, 22-year-old Zhou Xinyu from Southwest China's Yunnan Province said that incentives like hukou and housing subsidies are not major attractions for her.
"I grew up in Kunming, a second-tier city, and I already have hukou and my own house there, so the benefits offered by those second-tier cities are not so appealing to me," she said, adding that such incentives launched by second-tier cities might be more attractive to graduates originally from third- and fourth-tier cities.
Zhou also explained why she would prefer to work and live in a big city. "A first-tier city can offer me something more valuable than hukou and housing. I mean, in Shanghai I can enjoy more job opportunities and better career prospects than I do in Kunming, and the average salary in Shanghai is also higher than in other Chinese cities," she added.