A 'good job' conceptualization in China : a comparative study of Shenzhen and Lanzhou

  • Yin MA

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


The Chinese higher education system has expanded in a massive way since 1999, with the college enrolment rate jumping from 9.76% in 1998 to 40% in 2015, transforming the higher education system from an elite system to a massive one. Producing large numbers of graduates in a short time results in numerous unemployed graduates each year, but the reasons for graduate unemployment are still debatable. The dissertation begins with the clarification of one indigenous concept that my research respondents often refer to when I was doing my fieldwork in Lanzhou and Shenzhen, “good job”. The main research question is how to get a good job? The more specific research questions are: 1) How do graduates in these two cities construct the idea of good job? 2) What are the factors that impact their good job construction? 3) How do graduates seek their good jobs? Based on 34 in-depth interviews in Lanzhou and Shenzhen, the study finds that graduates in these two cities have very different job preferences. Graduates seeking jobs in Lanzhou often equate the public-sector jobs as good jobs and their Shenzhen counterpart opens the door equally to public and non-public sectors, as long as their employability could be enhanced. It shows that the construction of good job reflects the differences in the two cities, economic structure and employment opportunities. Moreover, the family’s cultural capital as well as high quality internship opportunities based on the economic development in these two areas also influence their good job construction. As for the approaches that graduates use to seek their ideal jobs, graduates in Lanzhou usually turn to strong ties to get their preferred jobs. Their Shenzhen counterparts, however, usually utilize weak ties to get their ideal jobs. Regarding the impact of human capital, this also plays a very different role in these two cities. Human capital is a basic requirement for graduates in Lanzhou to seek public sector jobs and the quality of it, measured in terms of which type of university, does not matter that much. But in Shenzhen, it plays a decisive role. In other words, human capital matters most for graduates seeking jobs in Shenzhen.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Sociology and Social Policy
SupervisorKa Ho Joshua MOK (Supervisor) & Beste Esra BURAK HO (Supervisor)

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