Nearly half of university graduates on the mainland see state-owned companies and government agencies as ideal places to work because they provide better fringe benefits and more job security, a survey has found.
The survey, conducted by Tsinghua University's China Data Centre and the university's Institute of Education, found that many graduates prefer jobs in state-owned companies and the civil service to working for foreign-funded companies, even though they could earn 20 per cent to 30 per cent more at the latter.
The survey of 6,059 graduates from 19 mainland universities in 2010 found they earned an average of 2,153 yuan (HK$2640) a month, with those who worked for a foreign-funded company getting an average of 2,741 yuan a month and those with state-owned firms and government agencies earning between 2,238 and 2,112 yuan a month. Those in the medical service sectors earned an average of just 1,440 yuan a month.
Xiong Bingqi , deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, said jobs in state-owned companies and the civil service had grown increasingly popular in recent years because they had more control over resources and welfare.
The number of graduates applying for civil service jobs jumped from about 600,000 in 2007 to a record of 1.46 million in 2010. More than 4,600 people applied for one particularly hotly pursued position.
Xiong said it was only natural that graduates facing a difficult job market sought out such jobs, but that it was damaging because it could well come at the expense of creativity and entrepreneurship, something that students should cultivate at university.
'It might mislead students to believe that a secure job, not creativity, is all they need when pursuing a degree,' he said.
'Such a trend goes particularly counter to various government initiatives pushing for greater creativity and entrepreneurship among university students.'
The survey found that 72 per cent of respondents found a job upon graduation and that only 4 per cent chose to start their own business, even though 18 per cent wanted to.
Professor Chu Zhaohui , from the National Institute of Education Sciences, said the lack of entrepreneurship among mainland university students was largely to do with the fact that the private sector could not compete on an equal footing with the state-owned sector.
Family connections had also become an important factor in finding a job and that put many students at a great disadvantage.
'Mainland university students, particularly those from rural areas, have to accept the reality that they are no longer an elite group in terms of pay levels for their first job,' Chu said. 'But they should not be too disillusioned by how little they earn and instead concentrate on their first job and build something out of it.'