How to boost the employability outcomes of Chinese students?
China has always been the top sending country for international students to Australia. As of 2021, the number of Chinese students studying in Australia is about 166,319.
Achieving good employability scores is one of the main reasons Chinese students are drawn to study abroad. However, actual employability results of Chinese students have always been lower than their expectations.
For example, a 2019 report showed that the unemployment rate for international students in Australia was much higher (10.6%) than the national average (5.7%) and that many worked in low-skilled jobs (17%).
Australia has faced a crisis in attracting international students since the pandemic. Improving the employability of international students, including Chinese students, is one of the practical solutions that could make Australia competitive in the international education market.
Australia has a well-established international education industry, but surprisingly there is currently a lack of knowledge about the employment experiences of international students. Therefore, it is important to gain insights into what contributes to the low employability scores of Chinese graduates.
What Determines Employability Results?
When discussing the employability of international graduates, one of the main factors reported as a key factor is permanent residency. Ample evidence has been found that employers in Australia prefer to hire a permanent resident to avoid complicated administrative work.
Unfortunately, the Australian government has tightened its migration policy by introducing stricter selection of foreign talent. In the 2019-20 budget, Scott Morrison’s former government reduced the number of permanent resident visas by 120,000.
The processing time for some new visas – for example temporary parental visas – has also increased. In addition, visa eligibility requirements have become more demanding.
The 190 subclass is a clear example of how complicated the procedures are. It requires that only those who belong to certain age groups and have high language skills, work experience and educational qualifications are likely to score high.
The obligatory English test has also become significantly more demanding. For example, applicants can only receive 10 points on a points-based visa application if they achieve an overall grade of Band 7 (i.e. they receive at least a 7 for each of the four test components) in the International English Language Testing System.
Another critical factor that has greatly frustrated international students is the ever-changing nature of visa regulations, which means many international students end up investing a great deal of time preparing permanent residence applications and neglecting their studies.
For Chinese graduates, unsatisfactory employability outcomes are also the result of a culture of dependence on and compliance with parental decisions. It is very common that Chinese parents prefer to take care of their offspring’s careers. When the younger generations are looking for a job, their parents tend to impose on them their idea of what the “ideal jobs” are – often well-paying and stable jobs.
This practice is heavily influenced by Confucianism, an ancient Chinese belief system that advocates “piety.” This phrase literally means reverence and respect for parents. Some Chinese parents think that this requires absolute obedience and therefore believe that they are responsible for their children’s career paths. They believe that because of their richer personal experience and financial resources, they have the authority to decide their children’s futures.
However, being so dependent on parents has consequences. For example, many Chinese students may miss out on good job opportunities, particularly the jobs they are interested in.
For example, quite a few are willing to return to China after graduation and don’t bother looking for a job in Australia. Although finding employment in the host country is not easy, many miss the opportunity to work in a field where they could fulfill their potential.
Although the parents may have good intentions, what they have done is counterproductive and negatively impacts the children’s employability.
misunderstandings and miscommunication
Finally, the unsatisfactory employability results of Chinese students are also influenced by the Chinese graduates themselves. One of the problems is their knowledge of English.
Studies have shown that English proficiency is one of the biggest limitations for international students, including Chinese graduates. After years of studying in an English-speaking country, some still struggle to become fluent.
Another important problem is that many Chinese students do not know how to build effective social networks for career development in Australia.
From their point of view, social relationships mean guanxia Chinese composition consisting of two single characters – viz guan And Xi. The former means “door lock” or “gateway,” while the latter means “linkage” or “connection system.” Combined with the two characters, guanxi refers to “a system of links when one party chooses to open the link to the other party”.
It has two levels of meaning. First, in relation to interpersonal relationships, it implies a utilitarian inclination to help others without having a genuine emotional exchange. Second, it means not making others “lose face” by avoiding direct remarks or returning a favor for a favor.
In contrast, in Australia the conception of interpersonal relationships differs. Australians think that relationships mean really building networks so that informal and formal support is available whenever it is needed.
Unfortunately, Chinese students confuse making connections with guanxi. Your misinterpretation of human relationships creates unexpected cultural clashes in Australian workplaces. In many cases, they find it difficult to work with their Australian counterparts.
Chinese students do not work as cooperatively when they realize that the possibility of benefiting from others is low. Australians may be dissatisfied because they value collaboration.
In addition, Chinese students don’t like making others lose face, so they don’t often give direct feedback or share personal ideas. Australians could then feel unsure of what is going on.
In summary, these different norms can cause communication problems between Chinese and Australians in the workplace.
How to improve the employability of Chinese graduates?
Institutions believe that knowledge, skills and certain characteristics are the key factors that contribute to students’ employment success. However, to be successful professionally, students need a broader range of resources, including but not limited to effective social networks and a good understanding of the local work culture.
Creating real-world practices such as internships is an effective way to enable students to push their limits in these areas. Additionally, it is clear that Chinese students should take a more active role in shaping their careers, for example by having clear career goals and looking for opportunities to build their employability resources beyond the official university curricula.
Minjie Tang is a PhD student at the School of Education, Culture and Society, Higher Education Group, Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia.