In China, Families Bet It All on College for Their Children

The Education RevolutionWu Yiebing has been going down coal shafts practically every workday of his life, wrestling an electric drill for $500 a month in the choking dust of claustrophobic tunnels, with 1 goal in mind: paying for his daughter’s education. His wife, Cao Weiping, toils from dawn to sunset in orchards every day during apple season in May and June. She earns $12 a day tying little plastic bags one at a time around 3.000 young apples on trees, to protect them from insects. The rest of the year she works as a substitute store clerk, earning several dollars day, going toward their daughter’s education. Many families in the West sacrifice to put children through school, saving for college educations they hope will lead to a better life. Few efforts can compare with the heavy financial burden millions of lower-income Chinese parents now endure as they push their children to obtain as much education as possible. Yet a college degree no longer ensures a well-paying job, because number of graduates in China has quadrupled in the last decade. Mr. Wu and Mrs. Cao, who grew up in tiny villages in western China and became migrants in search of better-paying work, have scrimped their entire lives. For nearly two decades, they have lived in a cramped and drafty 200-square-foot house with a thatch roof. They have never owned a car. They do not take vacations, they have never seen the ocean. They have skipped the traditional New Year trips to their ancestral village for up to five straight years to save on bus fares and gifts, and for Mr. Wu to earn extra holiday pay in the mines. Despite their frugality, they have essentially no retirement savings. Thanks to these sacrifices, their daughter, Wu Caoying, is now a 19-year-old college sophomore. She is among growing millions of Chinese college students who have gone much farther than their parents could have dreamed when they were growing up. For all the hard work of Wu’s father and mother, however, they aren’t certain it will pay off. Their daughter is ambivalent about staying in school, where tuition, room, board cost more than half her parents’ combined annual income. Slightly above-average student, she thinks of dropping out, finding a job and earning money. “Every time my daughter calls home, she says, ‘I don’t want to continue this,’. And I say, ‘You’ve got to keep studying to take care of us when we get old’, and she says, ‘That’s too much pressure, I don’t want to think about all that responsibility.’ Ms. Wu dreams of working at a big company, but knows many graduates end up jobless. “I think I may start my own small company,” she says, while acknowledging she doesn’t have money or experience to run one (…..)

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/business/in-china-families-bet-it-all-on-a-child-in-college.html

Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

One Response to In China, Families Bet It All on College for Their Children

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: American and European university students are sort of the canary at the coal mine as far as the reality of a new labor market goes for jobs and pay. For sure, long gone are the days in which an university degree — particularly from a prestigious learning center — was guarantee of a lifetime well paid job. Robust economic growth has shifted from the North Atlantic to a group of emerging economies, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, led by China. Despite the Chinese economy creating millions of jobs, Chinese university students face a highly competitive job market where market pay is far below from their expectations or their parents. Back in 2007, while attending an international conference at the University of Malaya – Institute of China Institute, a paper assessing China’s labor market for college graduates called my attention. It was a grim assessment that appeared contrary to the strong performance showed by China’s economy. Reviewing recent literature on China’s labor market for university graduates, I came to two conclusions. First, it will take years for wages earned by Chinese graduates to get closer to their Western counterparts. Second, it is an illusion that university studies paid by low income families could produce wages high enough for a son or daughter to take care of their parents during their old age.


    In this globalized world, the worries of a family today in Beijing, is very much similar to the worries of a family in Lansing MI.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/business/in-china-families-bet-it-all-on-a-child-in-college.html

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