Ef­fec­tive poli­cies can help re­turnees find jobs

Govern­ments at all lev­els must also work to en­sure the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of such mea­sures

China Daily European Weekly - - Cover Story - The author is founder and pres­i­dent of Bei­jing­based in­de­pen­dent think tank Cen­ter for China and Glob­al­iza­tion and a coun­selor to the State Coun­cil. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

The re­port de­liv­ered by Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Xi Jin­ping to the 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China in Oc­to­ber em­pha­sized that talent is a strate­gic re­source for na­tional re­ju­ve­na­tion and in­ter­na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness. Out­stand­ing stu­dents who re­turn to China af­ter study­ing abroad with ad­vanced knowl­edge and skills are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of this talent pool. Over­seas stu­dents have played a piv­otal role in China’s mod­ern­iza­tion since the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, es­pe­cially at the be­gin­ning of re­form and openingup in 1978.

The sta­tus of Chi­nese over­seas stu­dents has changed sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter 40 years of de­vel­op­ment. In 2017, a record 480,900 over­seas stu­dents re­turned to China. By the end of 2017, the to­tal num­ber of Chi­nese study­ing abroad was around 5.2 mil­lion. It is ex­pected that around 3.1 mil­lion will choose to re­turn to China af­ter fin­ish­ing their stud­ies, ac­count­ing for 83.7 per­cent of those who suc­cess­fully com­plete their stud­ies.

Since the 18th CPC Na­tional Congress in 2012, the num­ber of re­turned over­seas stu­dents has con­tin­ued to climb, reach­ing a to­tal of 2,231,600. This ac­counts for more than 70 per­cent of the to­tal num­ber of re­turnees since the start of re­form and open­ing-up.

A range of so­cial and pol­icy fac­tors have helped form this wave of over­seas stu­dents re­turn­ing to China, in­clud­ing a de­sire to re­unite with fam­ily, em­ploy­ment pres­sure over­seas and the grow­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to be found by re­turn­ing to China, es­pe­cially in re­cent years. Govern­ment sup­port for em­ploy­ment and en­trepreneur­ship for re­turned over­seas stu­dents has also con­trib­uted to the tide.

Fam­ily re­union is one of the main rea­sons for over­seas stu­dents re­turn­ing to China. Given China’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, for over­seas stu­dents, es­pe­cially those who are an only child, feel­ings of fa­mil­ial re­spon­si­bil­ity are of­ten a ma­jor fac­tor in the de­ci­sion to re­turn home.

In ad­di­tion, Chi­nese stu­dents over­seas are find­ing it more dif­fi­cult to se­cure jobs, as some coun­tries have tight­ened rules on em­ploy­ment and the sta­tus of over­seas stu­dents in re­cent years, while at the same time such stu­dents are at a dis­ad­van­tage be­cause they know less about the lo­cal environment and la­bor mar­ket. Other fac­tors that have prompted over­seas stu­dents to re­turn to China in­clude the lim­ited space for career pro­gres­sion, pres­sures of life abroad and safety is­sues.

“Pull” fac­tors per­suad­ing stu­dents to re­turn to China in­clude the great po­ten­tial for career de­vel­op­ment at home and sup­port­ive poli­cies. The govern­ment has in­ten­si­fied efforts to en­cour­age innovation and pol­icy sup­port for re­turned stu­dents. Since Premier Li Keqiang launched the mass en­trepreneur­ship and innovation ini­tia­tive, all lev­els of govern­ment in China have in­creased sup­port for small and mi­cro en­ter­prises, mass en­trepreneur­ship and innovation. This has made many over­seas stu­dents en­thu­si­as­tic to re­turn home to seek op­por­tu­ni­ties for en­trepreneur­ship and em­ploy­ment. In turn, busi­ness suc­cess sto­ries of stu­dents who have re­turned to China en­cour­age more over­seas stu­dents to fol­low this path.

Var­i­ous pref­er­en­tial poli­cies have been in­tro­duced at the cen­tral and lo­cal lev­els to at­tract over­seas stu­dents to re­turn home. At the na­tional level, there is the Thou­sand Tal­ents Plan and the Ten Thou­sand Tal­ents Pro­gram; at the lo­cal level, there are pro­grams such as Bei­jing’s Over­seas Talent Ag­gre­ga­tion Project and Shen­zhen’s Peacock Plan. Un­der new poli­cies, over­seas stu­dents can qual­ify for tax-ex­empt car pur­chases, eased set­tle­ment and res­i­dence, ben­e­fits re­gard­ing em­ploy­ment and en­trepreneur­ship fund­ing, and pref­er­en­tial poli­cies for aca­demic re­search and en­trepreneur­ship.

While the govern­ment has cre­ated suf­fi­cient pol­icy con­di­tions to en­cour­age over­seas stu­dents to re­turn to China, in the fu­ture, we should work harder to im­prove the level of govern­ment ser­vices to bet­ter at­tract and re­tain talent. We should fo­cus on cre­at­ing a bet­ter environment so that such talent can de­velop to their full po­ten­tial.

To at­tract over­seas stu­dents back to China, in ad­di­tion to op­ti­miz­ing the over­all environment to nur­ture talent, govern­ment ser­vices for em­ploy­ment and en­trepreneur­ship should be fine, deep and de­tailed. Tar­geted and ef­fec­tive govern­ment ser­vices are in­dis­pens­able for the fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of re­turned over­seas stu­dents.

Many lo­cal­i­ties pro­vide cus­tom­ized ser­vices tai­lored to over­seas re­turnees at dif­fer­ent stages of de­vel­op­ment. These ex­pe­ri­ences can be fur­ther in­te­grated and re­fined so that tar­geted ser­vices can be ex­panded to more re­gions. For ex­am­ple, a Thou­sand Tal­ents Plan prod­uct mar­ket­ing ser­vice cen­ter has been es­tab­lished that of­fers pol­icy in­for­ma­tion, en­trepreneur­ship train­ing and man­age­ment con­sult­ing, as well as plat­forms for in­ter­ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of innovation.

For en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment, we en­cour­age and pro­vide some fund­ing for high-level talent to take on lead­er­ship roles such as or­ga­niz­ing in­ter­na­tional aca­demic con­fer­ences and sem­i­nars. We also try to re­solve practical dif­fi­cul­ties, such as pro­vid­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for high-level talent in ar­eas such as im­mi­gra­tion and med­i­cal care.

At the same time, we should im­prove the fi­nan­cial sys­tem to re­solve chal­lenges that over­seas re­turnees face. This in­cludes ex­pand­ing fi­nanc­ing chan­nels such as es­tab­lish­ing innovation funds for over­seas stu­dents, di­rect sub­si­dies, low-in­ter­est loans and ven­ture cap­i­tal funds. This will help nur­ture a gen­er­a­tion of re­turnee-led busi­nesses that pos­sess in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and bright mar­ket prospects. We must also work to build and re­fine an as­sess­ment and guar­an­tee mech­a­nism for tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, en­cour­ag­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in new projects and en­ter­prises.

Govern­ments at all lev­els must not only for­mu­late poli­cies, but also work to en­sure the full im­ple­men­ta­tion and ef­fec­tive­ness of these poli­cies. It is also im­por­tant to ab­sorb feed­back from re­turned stu­dents on these poli­cies and to bet­ter un­der­stand their ac­tual needs re­gard­ing en­trepreneur­ship and em­ploy­ment. This will help to un­lock the vast po­ten­tial of re­turned stu­dents in sup­port­ing mod­ern­iza­tion in the new era.

Wang Huiyao

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