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Graduate Jobs in China - Part 2, The Return of the Sea Turtles

Posted by Daniel Purchas

Well lately I read another story published here in the Australian press (The Age) that outlines that around one third of recent graduates are struggling to find work in China. The article quotes a representative of the Ministry of Education saying this is the highest rate of unemployment among new graduates since the start of recording statistics in 1996.

So why are these graduates having a tough time finding jobs?

One of the main reasons that graduates are finding it hard to secure graduate jobs in china is the huge growth in the number of graduates completing degrees at Chinese Universities, growing from around 1 million per year in 1998 through to the present 6 million per year in 2009 making competition fierce (check out the picture of a Chinese careers fair on our previous article here).

Some extra insights into this can be found from a chat I had a few weeks ago with a contact, Yvon, who works at an employer branding agency based in the Netherlands who works closely with multi-national graduate employers based in China. She told me that even though there are so many graduate job hunters out in the market, multi-national companies are still battling to attract the right graduates to their organisations. Yvon mentioned that only around 10% of Chinese graduates have the right skills and academic background to obtain graduate positions in a multi-national organisation and this is backed up by findings from Mckinsey. The cause seems to largely be from a mis-match between what universities are teaching students and what Chinese employers need from their graduate level employees.

The return of the Sea Turtles

Trends to watch out for are the return of the sea turtles to asia. A sea turtle is a slang name for a Chinese university student studying overseas. The reverse brain drain, the return of the sea turtles to china. Turtle in chinese has the same meaning or is pronounced the same as 'coming home'.

Poaching graduates from Hong Kong and Singapore where university curriculums are more in tune with what multi-national organisations are looking for. Chinese employers are often facing a vacuum of talent for key positions. Yvon outlined that she has head of fast promotion of through to senior management level for professionals based in Singapore and Hong Kong when they relocate back to China far above where they were operating in their previous roles. There is also the potential for the focus to turn to Chinese university students completing degrees in countries like Australia and New Zealand and try to lure them back to China.


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