Chinese college graduates move to first-tier cities to fight for the future

By Zhang Yihua Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/15 18:43:50

Despite the high cost of living, many Chinese college graduates choose to go to first-tier cities to work and live for more opportunities. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Zhang Yi, a 22-year-old recent graduate, considers herself fortunate for having found a job in Beijing. But the capital was not her first choice. She only made the move after she exhausted all her options in her hometown of Taiyuan, the capital city of Shanxi Province.

"Few companies were interested in offering me a position [in Taiyuan]," said Zhang, who majored in history at university.

Hoping that there would be more opportunities for her in Beijing, she boarded a train to the city several months ago.

Like Zhang, a significant number of college graduates are choosing first-tier cities as the starting point of their career because they believe that compared to second- and third-tier cities, there are more job opportunities.

In fact, college graduates account for 33.5 percent or the highest proportion of people who have signed a contract to work in first-tier cities this year, according to a May 27 NetEase News report, which cited a recent survey by Chinese employment portal

Bittersweet success

Although they have jobs, some of them in their fields of study, it does not mean that recent graduates have an easy life. For one, their salary in many cases leaves much to be desired.

The NetEase News report said that the average monthly salary of a recent college graduate is 4,014 yuan ($591).

"My monthly pay is even lower than the average," said Zhang.

Despite her low income, Zhang said she does not regret working in Beijing. Instead, she feels grateful for the job opportunity because she still clearly recalls how hard it was for her to find a job in Taiyuan.

She had started sending her resume to different companies long before she graduated, but she was either shut out or rejected during the interview process. According to her, the reason for her failure then was her "not so popular" major.

"The graduates majoring in popular majors like finance and law are more welcomed by employers," she said, adding that she had many classmates who also encountered a lot of difficulties job hunting.

"Some of them eventually found a job with the help of their parents' interpersonal network," she said.

"Others, who have no connections, opted for postgraduate study to allow themselves more time before re-entering the fierce job market."

Zhang considered taking a similar route but nixed applying for her master's when some of her friends in Beijing told her that there are more job opportunities in the city and encouraged her to have a try.

She then began to search for jobs in Beijing on the Internet and was amazed to find that there were far more companies and job openings there, so she packed and left for the capital.

Within several weeks of arriving, Zhang received replies from more than 10 companies and two job offers after rounds of interviews.

"There are more companies in Beijing, so it is more likely for me to find a company that appreciates my knowledge in history, which seemed useless and unneeded when I was back in Taiyuan searching for jobs," Zhang said.

She later accepted a job offer to help integrate historical elements into game designs for a gaming company.

Some Chinese college graduates see moving to first-tier cities as a chance to choose their own path in life. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Striving for their future

For Lin Tong, a 23-year-old student who recently graduated with an undergraduate degree from a university in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province and his hometown, what drove him to move to Beijing to work was his desire for a less predictable, more challenging life.

Growing up in a middle-class family, Lin's future was predictably bright. He could have easily gotten a decent job working for a good company in Shenyang, and he wouldn't have needed to save money to buy an apartment because his parents have already bought him one. But he balked at the idea.

"If I stay in Shenyang to work and live, I can imagine what kind of life I will be living in five, 10 and 20 or 30 years," he said. "Everything has been or will be prepared for me. If I do not leave my hometown, my future is set, and I do not like that."

He moved to Beijing about two months ago and found a job as a copywriter. He loves his job.

Wang Yuanyi, a 22-year-old recent graduate from Baoding in Hebei Province, moved to Shanghai after graduation for a similar reason. She is one of the numerous white-collar workers in the metropolis.

She had originally planned to stay in Baoding and lead the kind of life her parents wished, but all that changed last year when she was watching the popular TV series Ode to Joy.

Wang was very impressed with how Guan Juer and Qiu Yingying, two of the five heroines in the show, tried to find their future in Shanghai and decided to give it a try. After graduating from university with her bachelor's degree, she went to find a job in Shanghai.

"Both heroines would live a much easier life if they stayed in their hometown, but they did not. So, why should I choose an easier life while young? They helped kindle my passion for striving," she said.

"Life in a big city might be harder, but it would be a more memorable life experience."

Thistles and thorns

Many of Lin's friends chose to stay in Shenyang and have settled down with stable jobs.

"It is not difficult for their parents to help them buy an apartment considering that the housing price in Shenyang is not very high," he said.

"However, with the sky-high housing price in Beijing, it would take me a really long time to buy an apartment in Beijing, even with help from my parents."

Although he feels pleased and excited that he is not on a road that has been paved for him, Lin cannot help feeling a bit stressed as he needs to pay thousands of yuan for the room he rents and has buying an apartment in the future as a potential pressure.

Wang conceded that although she has been in Shanghai for only a month, she has also felt the pressure.

She shares an apartment with two other girls and needs to pay more than 2,000 yuan for a room that is only 10 square meters, but her monthly salary is less than 4,000 yuan, which is not enough to cover the rent and expenses for food.

Her mom gave her some money before she left for Shanghai and said that she would transfer some money to Wang's bank account regularly.

"But even with her financial support, the money I have is only enough for the rent and my daily expenses; it is unlikely that I will be able to save," said Wang.

Besides the financial pressure, she also feels a lot of pressure at work. She goes to work at 9 am and usually gets off at 9 pm. During the 12 hours, she has an enormous amount of work to do, which is not completely within her comfort zone, so she worries that she is not doing a satisfactory job.

Also, several days ago, she had a high fever, and there were no family members around to take care of her, which left her feeling especially lonely and fragile.

"It sometimes occurs to me that if I had not come to Shanghai, I would not be living under such great pressure and have no one around me when I need help," she said.

"But I do not regret it because I believe that my life is enriched, and it will be an experience that is worth recalling when I get older."

Newspaper headline: Making their own path


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