Somewhat reluctant, Dai Ning decided to leave his hometown province of Liaoning in northeast China to work in Beijing after graduating from a local university in July.
The 25-year-old postgraduate from a technology university in Dalian, a coastal city in Liaoning, has found a job in a large state-owned construction company.
“Frankly speaking, I intended to stay. But I cannot get a satisfactory job here, so I have to leave,” he said.
The young man is not alone. Many of his peers have also chosen to work outside the province, a problem for the northeastern region, an old industrial base, which has been struggling to rejuvenate through restructuring.
Recently released graduate employment reports from Northeastern University in Shenyang, provincial capital of Liaoning, and Dalian University of Technology show the extent of the problem.
Only about a quarter of graduates in 2016 from the two universities chose to stay and work in the province, while the rest were mostly attracted to developed areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong and Guangdong provinces.
The provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang saw a net outflow of about 240,000 people from 2010 to 2015, according to Zhao Chenxin, spokesperson for the National Development and Reform Commission, in December.
“A current phenomenon which deserves attention is that college graduates, medium and high-end technical staff, and management personnel move out of the region to seek jobs or start businesses,” he said.
Last April, the central authorities published a document on rejuvenating the old industrial base, stressing that talent was a priority for the region.
Another central document last month encouraged college graduates to work in central, western and northeastern regions. The Ministry of
Education said that universities in the eastern region were not encouraged to attract talent from those areas.
The governments of the three northeastern provinces have introduced supporting measures to attract and secure talent.
Liaoning supports equity investment for new high-tech firms. In Shenyang and Dalian, graduates enjoy subsidies when starting up businesses.
The improved business environment in northeast China has brought returns.
Yang Shuo, 32, who gave up her job in Beijing two years ago, returned to her hometown Shenyang and founded a foreign language training school.
Currently, the school has more than 200 children learning English.
“There is still a gap between northeast China and the southern region in terms of business environment. But I feel the local environment is changing,” Yang said.
“Some of my friends have left Shanghai to go back to the northeast for work. Our parents still live there.The hometown is becoming better,” said Gao Jiaman, 29, a native of Liaoning who teaches in a Shanghai college.”Working in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen looks decent and charming, but the pressure is heavy, too.”