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China Daily Website

Education matters in boosting economic status

Updated: 2012-08-04 11:32
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - Recent surveys show that the starting salaries of China's college graduates are not as bad as those of migrant workers, despite a report that claimed they were so.

According to a survey conducted by the China Data Center at Tsinghua University, the average monthly salaries of 2011 graduates amounted to 2,719 yuan ($426.5), 26 percent greater than those of the previous year.

"The statistics show that the starting salaries of college students are greater than what the media has claimed," said Professor Li Hongbin, executive associate director of the center and one of the report's five authors.

A recent report claimed that 69 percent of graduating college students' starting salaries are below those of migrant workers, stirring debate over the true value of a college education in China.

According to official statistics, migrant workers earned a monthly average of 2,049 yuan in 2011, about $100 less than that earned by the average college grad that year.

Li said employment for new graduates has become a hot topic, as spiking enrollment numbers at Chinese universities have created intense competition among fresh job-seekers.

The center and the Research Institute of Higher Education have conducted annual surveys of graduates since 2010 in order to obtain information for policymaking and academic studies.

Li said the fact that 72 percent of grads have been able to find jobs indicates success, as many graduates spend more time searching for jobs due to heightened expectations.

Another survey conducted by Mycos, a leading data and consulting organization that focuses on Chinese higher education, reached a similar conclusion through different methods.

Guo Jiao, executive president of Mycos, said the group surveyed more than 250,000 grads from over 200 universities, discovering that 70 percent of respondents had nailed down post-graduation jobs in July and August, just below the China Data Center's figure of 72 percent.

However, Li acknowledged that a gap exists between employment and income, although is not as severe as was previously believed.

The expansion in university enrollment in China over the last decade has caused the number of graduates to soar to more than 6 million, an increase of 5 million since 1999.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing in the long run," Li said, adding that average salaries have gone up by 15 percent annually over the last 20 years.

"High salaries drive low-skill employees out of the market, as they cause companies to take hiring costs into greater consideration. Only those who are well-educated and trained can be qualified," Li said.

Guo said there is a correlation between the quality of education one receives and one's future opportunities for income growth and promotions.

Greater knowledge and skills can not only change college graduates' lives and economic status, but also determine the incomes of migrant workers and other employees.

Li said economic restructuring in China will cause industries that require pure labor to move to neighboring countries and regions, while China's demand for skilled and specialized workers will only increase.

The incomes of skilled workers have increased considerably in recent years. For example, skilled masons can currently earn over 10,000 yuan per month, while in the 1990s, they could only earn about 1,800 yuan monthly.

Li admitted that the survey does indicate a need for reform in university education, adding that students should be taught to improve their own learning capacity, rather than specific skills.

"The country needs to develop vocational education and on-the-job training along the road toward economic restructuring," Li said.