Better job opportunities and family ties are among the forces driving them back to China
Figures from the Ministry of Education showed 353,500 people who went overseas to study came back to China last year, nearly 30 times the number of returnees seen at the beginning of the century.
A survey by the ministry found that more than 60 per cent held master’s degrees, while 30 per cent had only a bachelor’s degree. Six per cent had obtained a doctorate.
Countries they were leaving included the United States, Australia, Britain, Japan, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand.
Dr Henry Wang, president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, a Beijing-based think tank, said the overall environment in China had improved and the economy held brighter prospects. “It’s easier to get employed in China than elsewhere,” Wang said.
Six years ago 180,000 people went abroad to study and 70,000 returned. In 2012 the figure was 400,000, with returnees increasing more than three-fold.
The centre issued a report on China returnees last year and it showed 70 per cent of Chinese studying overseas planned to come back, most of them born in the 1980s, into single-child families and wanting to be near their parents.
Both the central government and grass-roots authorities have launched schemes to lure students back.
Jason Liang is among the recent returnees. Liang graduated with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, last autumn, but returned to Beijing in search of job prospects. He is doing an internship at a business magazine.
“My family is in Beijing and I have connections … here. It means I have better opportunities for work,” Liang said.
Culturally, it was also an easier fit back at home, he said.
Liang had tried internships but felt it was difficult to find work, especially with a non-science degree.
A total of 3.05 million people have gone abroad for study since 1978, when China first allowed the arrangement. More than 1.44 million have returned, according to the ministry.