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Number of returning Chinese students up 38%

The number of Chinese who return to China after studying abroad rose significantly last year, with government incentives, China’s buoyant economy and the effects of tougher job markets abroad thought to be behind the trend.

"Many are now starting to return to China because this is where the great growth is"

A total of 186,200 Chinese students had returned home by the end of 2011, an increase of more than 38% on 2010’s figures of 135,000, according to state-backed news source the People’s Daily.

Viewed retrospectively, the trend is still for a greater number of Chinese to remain abroad after studying than to return home, however the Chinese government is trying to reverse this to bolster its domestic talent pool.

One initiative, the Talent Development Plan (2010-20) launched June 2010, offers favourable policies on areas such as tax, housing and children and spouse resettlement for high-calibre students willing to return to work in China.

China has also established more than 160 industrial parks comprising around 8,000 businesses to provide jobs for returning students, reported the People’s Daily. The parks are said to employ more than 20,000 who have previously studied abroad.

China has also established 160 industrial parks comprising around 8,000 businesses to provide jobs for returning students

Talking in July about the already apparent upswing, Shaun Rein, managing director at China Market Research in Shanghai, said that Chinese needed to study abroad to gain the right skills for a globalised economy, but it was important they returned home.

“Fifteen years ago, many Chinese who studied abroad and stayed there because the opportunities in China were limited. However, many are now starting to return to China because this is where the great growth is and job opportunities abound,” he told WantChina Times.

Despite government efforts, the recession-impaired job markets of the West are certain to have driven the trend – the US for example hovered between the 9.5% and 10% unemployment marks for much of 2010 and 2011 (the figure is now nearer 8%).It is currently trying to make it easier for highly skilled science, technology,  engineering and maths graduates from abroad to remain in the country after their degrees due to a predicted shortage in highly skilled labour.

The prospect of curbed visa policies in markets such as the UK, where post-study work rights will be removed in April, may also have played a role. Education: A Great British Export, a report released last month, quotes a survey of 428 Chinese secondary school pupils and their parents conducted last November. About half said they would be less likely to consider a UK university if it became harder to work in the UK after graduating.

By the end of 2011, the total number of Chinese that had studied abroad since 1978 totaled 2.25 million, while the number who returned reached 818,400. A total of 340,000 Chinese studied abroad last year alone, up 20% on 2010.

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