Self-starters get a helping hand
Mao Rui decided to start a company to teach foreign businessmen Chinese after receiving a master’s degree from a prestigious Beijing university.
“I enjoy the uncertainties in running my own business and it makes me feel life is full of possibilities,” said the 26-year-old.
“If I had chosen the same career path as most of my peers who majored in language — finding a job in a language school — my life might have become dull,” she said.
Mao’s two business partners are friends of hers who both studied teaching Chinese as a second language. Their company, Geyi Language Center, opened last year in Shanghai with four classrooms and a cafe. The three founders are the only full-time workers, while the center hires 13 part-time teachers.
The development and reform roadmap released by the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee focused on increasingly tougher employment prospects for college graduates and urged greater efforts to help graduates to start businesses by making better use of government funds, among other things.
About 2 percent of China’s 6.8 million college graduates chose to be self-employed in 2012, showing an increase over four consecutive years since 2008, according to a July report by MyCOS Data, a higher education consulting company in Beijing.
Graduates from higher vocational colleges showed more enthusiasm for entrepreneurship than those from ordinary universities, the report said.
The Yangtze River Delta area, led by Shanghai, had most college graduates trying their hand at self-employment.
However, a follow-up survey by MyCOS found that the businesses set up by college graduates were performing badly. Of those who tried their hand at self-employment after graduation in 2008, more than twothirds quit within three years.
If I had chosen the same career path as most of my peers who majored in language — finding a job in a language school — my life might have become dull.” MAO RUI CO-FOUNDER OF GEYI LANGUAGE CENTER
of China’s 6.8 million college graduates chose to be self-employed in 2012, showing an increase over four consecutive years since 2008
Mao said few graduates chose to start companies during her graduation season, and she said that staff at the university’s career center were surprised and unprepared when she told them she planned to apply for an entrepreneurship certificate.
The Ministry of Finance established policies in 2010 that allow college graduates to enjoy tax deductions and loan guarantees with self-employment certificates authorized by the educational authorities.
Having spent six years in education in Beijing and started a company in Shanghai, Mao agreed with MyCOS’s finding that Shanghai provides more entrepreneurial incentives for graduates.
“Shanghai grants non-locals points to obtain hukou (permanent residency) if they create jobs for themselves and others, so now I have Shanghai hukou,” she said, adding there is no such points-based system in Beijing.
Mao said she saw numerous foundations and incubator organizations in Shanghai to provide capital and training for startups.
She successfully applied for an interest-free loan of 100,000 yuan ($16,300) after her business proposal won a prize at a graduate entrepreneurial competition last year.
“The judging panel was impressed by our idea of providing personalized services for learners, as we can send teachers to provide one-to-one coaching for foreign business people in Shanghai, and the course for every student is designed based on each customer’s need and language proficiency,” she said.
However, given that none of the three founders of Mao’s company had experience in brand promotion and sales, their business has not turned a profit due to a lack of students, while it is burdened with an annual office rent of 126,000 yuan.
Ding Shengqing worked as a salesperson in a large IT company in Guangdong province for two years before he started a plant to manufacture components for cellphones in June.
“I don’t think graduates should rush into starting companies. It is better for most people to work with a company to get enough experience first,” he said.
He complained that government support only applies to young people who have graduated less than two years before and provinces such as Guangdong prioritize helping graduates from local universities.
“People like me who went to a junior college in another province and graduated more than two years ago are completely on our own,” he said.
Liu Junsheng, a researcher with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said it is urgent for all universities to provide entrepreneurship courses to spur more students to become entrepreneurs.
The government should provide more favorable policies in terms of financing, tax deductions and training for all young people to allow flexibility for graduates to decide when and where they should start a business, urged Gao Wenshu, a researcher at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Hou Liqiang contributed to this story.