Shanghai Eclipses Beijing as Top Destination for Chinese University Graduates

Young people in Shanghai in 2013. Photo by Flickr user Richard Schneider. CC BY-NC 2.0

Young people in Shanghai in 2013. Photo by Flickr user Richard Schneider. CC BY-NC 2.0

With graduation season fast approaching, an estimated 7.2 million soon-to-be-graduates in China will have to battle it out for jobs this year.

But where? A recent report says Shanghai has become the most attractive place of employment for Chinese university graduates, and many are increasingly eyeing Chinese companies for jobs.

China Top 100 Ideal Employer, a report by career consulting company Universum, revealed that the top three cities graduates aspire to work in are Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, a trio commonly referred to by the Chinese as “Beishangguang”, the country's most known cities that are economic engines for China.

The report, released on April 3, 2014 after surveying 51,000 students from universities across China, also suggested that many Chinese companies have stepped up their hires and are becoming more popular with would-be university graduates.

Leading the charts of the most sought-after companies are mostly home-grown ones, ranging from telecommunications giant Huawei to China's second largest oil producer Sinopec.  

While the report didn't give reasons for why Shanghai has topped the list of preferred cities to work, many Chinese media outlets have weighed in to offer their explanations. China National Radio, for instance, said:


In the past, many university graduates chose Beijing because they valued its status as the capital and the development opportunities there. Now, many have given up on Beijing because living costs are too high and how difficult it is to get Hukou also ends up being an obstacle. Comparatively speaking, Shanghai is a very open city. It has introduced policies regarding the residential pass mechanism and to draw talent. Regardless of your education, nationality, titles, as long as you have talent, anyone will have good opportunities to develop and do business no matter where you come from. It means as long as you are a capable person, you will enjoy room to progress and will rise through the ranks in a company. This is why [the city] attracts students.

This week, a Beijing newspaper ran a story profiling three young working professionals who have chosen to leave Beijing for good. With the title “Leaving Beijing to work elsewhere has many benefits, the capital is no longer the first option for employment”, the piece zoomed in on the interviewees’ complaints on Beijing's worsening pollution and a nepotism system that trades work for money.

Chinese media have seized upon the Universum report and churned out articles with headlines such as “Beijing has replaced Shanghai as the first option for university graduates”. It has also generated discussion on popular Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo.

Many Weibo users were sceptical, a media editor from Shanghai wrote:  


A while ago many said graduates were abandoning Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, now they say Shanghai has replaced Beijing as the most ideal place to work for graduates. Is it that many research organisations are slapping each other in the face?

Weibo user “Please call me A Ben” from Shanghai complained:


The subway in [Shanghai] is not crowded enough? The prices not high enough?

 Chuhui, who resides in Shanghai, wrote


Welcome to this city where no one dares to hold up a falling old person and a witness won't tell when your wallet gets stolen, the incomes in the city are high, but the cost of living is even higher. Here your views on life and your values will be distorted. Only those who are not afraid of bitterness and witty can stand the test of Shanghai.   

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