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Job preference has changed with economic development

Updated:2022-03-01 15:01:14   China Daily

People attend a job fair under the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme, March 24, 2021. [PHOTO/HKSAR GOVERNMENT]

Editor's Note: Four decades of reform and opening-up have not only transformed China into the world's second-largest economy but also changed its people's lifestyle. A veteran journalist with China Daily takes a look at the changing career choices of the Chinese people over the decades.

More than half a century ago when I was in primary school, my dream was to become a scientist. The school's students included children of scientists working in neighboring research institutes as well as of ordinary workers and villagers. Even as a child, it was obvious to me that the kids of scientists were better dressed, better fed and better behaved. I envied them and used to dream of becoming a scientist like their parents.

Becoming a scientist, a doctor or a teacher used to be the common dream of children of my generation. But the dream was shattered during those turbulent days in the 1960s and 1970s when knowledge was not appreciated.

It was a time when many scientists and scholars were sent to rural areas so they could "reform" themselves by performing manual labor. Also, millions of high school graduates were sent to villages to be "re-educated" by farmers. Universities were closed for many years and the best career youths could dream of was a job in a State-owned factory or the military where they were ensured of enough food and clothes.

The launch of reform and opening-up in the late 1970s led to the re-opening of universities and intellectuals regaining their due position in society. But it was still difficult for even well-educated youths to choose a career because under the planned economy, jobs were assigned by the government.

Major changes took place in the 1990s, when joint ventures, foreign companies and private enterprises mushroomed in China. To attract talents, they offered salaries much higher than the State-owned enterprises. Many people quit their jobs to join these new companies for higher salaries, training opportunities abroad and brighter career prospects.

Eventually, in 1996, the authorities abolished the decades-old job assignment system, which not only gave university graduates the freedom to choose their careers, but also made the job competition tougher.

All this while, the central government has been taking measures to create at least 10 million jobs every year so that the more than 9 million youths graduating from college each year can find employment.

Today, most youths want to join good companies, earn handsome salaries and live in big cities. As for the cities where job-seekers prefer to work, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou top the list. Still, many youths still prefer to join SOEs including big banks and financial institutions, and petrochemical companies, because they offer not only job stability but also good salaries and many other benefits.

Civil service and teaching jobs, which many youths used to ignore because of low pay, are back in demand thanks to job stability and improved paychecks. In 2021, for instance, as many as 7.4 million people sat the civil service exams for 180,000 vacancies. In fact, it is not unusual to see some PhD holders competing for a high-school teaching position in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

When it comes to privately owned companies, most job-seekers favor new technology companies such as Huawei and Tencent. To attract brilliant talents, such companies offer up to 300,000 yuan ($47,494.21) as annual package to a newcomer. In 2019, for instance, Huawei alone recruited about 400 graduates from Peking University and Tsinghua University, China's top two institutions of higher learning.

While job-seekers in the past used to find jobs through relatives, friends or other contacts, or through advertisements or job fairs, nowadays 90 percent of new graduates search for jobs online. Online job sites have not only made life more convenient for youths, they have also facilitated job hopping. People of my generation tended to stick to one job throughout their life while today's youths tend to change their jobs every few years.

That's why job planners have been urging job-seekers to adopt a down-to-earth attitude when it comes to choosing a career. A person will try to excel in a job if he or she finds it interesting. And in the long run, the sense of achievement in whatever job one is engaged in rather than the scale of pay of the city where one works will decide a person's job preference.

Keywords:   Job preference changed