'Life is really, really hard' for Beijing talents

By Chen Jia (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-05-21 09:12
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BEIJING - Liu Bei, a 30-year-old software engineer, recently quit his job at a big foreign IT company in Beijing to join a small, fledgling company in the capital's Zhongguancun, the country's biggest high-tech park.

"I have no weekend, and the salary at the new job just meets my basic costs, but all the sacrifice will be worth it if our company gets listed in the near future," he told China Daily.

"I would have a large amount of money to buy a house," he said.

On what he had been earning before, the Peking University graduate could have saved for 20 years and still not have been able to afford an 80-square-meter apartment in Beijing.

Liu is one of the increasing number of talented people to try their luck at becoming an overnight millionaire.

"I might leave the city if I lose the gamble. It's a dream city, but life is really, really hard," he said.

Low incomes, soaring housing prices and traffic jams in Beijing have hampered the capital city's ambition to lure talent, including people with overseas diplomas, according to the 2011 Blue Book of Beijing's Talent released by the Beijing human resources research center under the organization department of the municipal Party committee.

Insiders said the high property prices in first-tier cities are preventing talented people from moving in.

The blue book suggested that nearly half of the population of a "world city" should work in high-tech, financial, cultural or creative industries. But only about 17 percent of Beijing's residents do. Beijing's annual investment in education, science and technology, and health and medicine falls short, it said.

For example, only 3 percent of the city's GDP went to public education in 2009, compared with 6.1 percent in New York and 5.6 percent in London.

"I'm concerned about city schools for my children and medical service for my parents if I return to work in China," said Liu Qingting, a Chinese doctoral candidate studying macromolecular material in the United Kingdom.

As part of China's efforts to build an innovation-driven economy, the State Council recently approved the Outline for the Development of Zhongguancun National Innovation Demonstration Zone (2011-2020), which allows companies in the IT hotbed to pioneer new ways to continue its success.

Last year, the development zone created a "special talent zone", which offers preferential policies such as tax breaks and housing aid to help talented people - especially those returning from overseas institutions or enterprises - start businesses.

Those who invest will be granted a Beijing hukou (permanent residency permit), an attractive medical care package and tax deductions for themselves and their businesses.

"Talent is the foundation for the development of Zhongguancun," said Yang Jianhua, a senior official with the Zhongguancun Science Park.

Beijing also launched a program to lure 436 professionals from overseas in 2011 to boost the city's emerging industries.

The highly skilled overseas Chinese or foreign professionals will work for the country's universities and research institutes, State-owned enterprises and financial institutions.

Many local governments have been trying to attract prominent foreign scientists and researchers from premier international institutions and enterprises since the central government began the Thousand Talents Program in 2008.

China plans to increase its talent pool from 114 million to 180 million by 2020, when it will spend 15 percent of its GDP on human resources, according to the National Outline for Medium- and Long-Term Talent Development (2010-2020), released in June.