More foreign-trained Chinese return home to benefit science research

By Dong Feng Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/22 19:28:41

Candidates queue up at a job fair held by the Chinese Education Ministry for Chinese students who have graduated from the UK on October 27, 2018. Photo: VCG

The brain drain situation in China is reversing, as those who have studied overseas are less willing to stay and work abroad and returning home, a trend that experts believe is positive for China's scientific research development. 

In 2018, the total number of returned overseas Chinese students was 519,400, an increase of 38,500, or 8 percent, compared to 2017, according to official data released by the Ministry of Education

A latest report on China's overseas study development released by the Narada Foundation, a private foundation that provides disaster relief and helps the children of migrant workers gain access to education, said that China continues to influence the global overseas studies market. 

Li Xiaozhuang, an associate research fellow with Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, echoed that view, telling the Global Times that China could remain the largest market for overseas studies for years. 

"It is mainly determined by economic development and potential, and demand is still strong. At the same time, the education structure in China is creating candidates for overseas students. In many high-level junior high and high schools, there are international departments offering international exchange opportunities," Li pointed out. 

The year 2016 was seen as the turning point, when more than 80 percent of overseas students chose to return to China after their studies. The gap between those studying abroad and foreign students coming to China also started to close, China Education Daily reported in March 2018. 

"Since the trade tension initiated by the US, the West has blocked positions for Chinese scholars. As a result, many high-level talents are unable to apply what they have learned. Many of my students went through more difficult procedures while applying for overseas studies," Ye Hang, an economics professor at the College of Economics of Zhejiang University, told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that "We never encountered this kind of situation in previous years."

Statistics from Project Atlas show that the number of international students in the US and the UK only grew by about 1 percent in 2018.

By contrast, Australia, Canada and China are attracting more overseas students, with growth rates of over 10 percent. 

In 2016, the number of new international students to the US declined by 3 percent year-on-year, marking the first time that these numbers had dropped in the past 12 years, according to the 2017 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released on November 13, 2017. 

The decline was attributed to new policies adopted by the Trump administration for student visas, work visas and immigration, impacting students from the Chinese mainland, India and South Korea, the Narada Foundation report said. 

New challenges 

Economic downturn in the UK has prompted the government to adjust its policies for overseas students, their work visas and immigration, making it harder for overseas students to secure a job after completing their studies. 

Germany is favored by international students, young people seeking employment opportunities and immigrants. However, in 2016, the German government implemented a scoring system for work visas in a bid to tighten up immigration. 

Li found it to be a better choice to be back in China. "The differences between staying abroad and coming back to China are narrowing. There is more unilateralism in the US and populism in other developed countries. It could be better to come back to China, as there will be more opportunities and certainty. Talent circulation is mainly due to China being an advocate of globalization. The economy is inclusive, offering great potential for development. Foreign enterprises are more likely to hire those who have studied abroad," Li analyzed. 

Diversified labor force

The report pointed out the main reasons why overseas students are coming back are job opportunities and wanting to be with family. 

Ye said that the development of scientific research in China has been very rapid. The conditions for domestic research have greatly improved, and the demand for talents from all walks of life is also strong. 

With more overseas students coming back, the degrees they have earned in other countries might not be as competitive as they thought, and the pressure for finding a good job has grown. 

Over 65 percent of surveyed returned students said that a lack of familiarity with the job market has created a barrier to finding work. Over 45 percent believed the problem is more to do with not having the networks to be connected to better opportunities, the report said. 

In terms of salary, Ye finds that China is closing the gap with the West. "After the financial crisis of 2008, developed countries have cut investment in research and development while China has greatly increased it, creating greater demand for scientific research talents," Ye noted. 

"There will be a more diversified labor force in China. As payroll packages are now more transparent, talents will be paid according to the requirements and pressure of each position," Li said.
Newspaper headline: Back to work

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