Chapter 5 in Wu, B., Morgan, W.J., (eds.), Chinese Higher Education Reform and Social Justice, pp 79-92
It is clear that graduates from Chinese higher education, like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, expect to find employment which provides a return on the investment they and their families have made in their formal education and training. They aspire also to employment appropriate to the level of education they have achieved and which provides opportunities for career progress, and which is preferably located somewhere congenial to their personal circumstances. Such expectations are based on an understanding and acceptance, simple or sophisticated, of the basic principles of human capital theory (Schultz, 1961; Becker, 1993a). These are very well known and are summarised here only briefly. The argument is that individuals who consciously invest in education and training with the aim of enhancing their employability, productivity capacity and lifetime earnings acquire human capital.2 The investment itself comprises both time and money, which includes fees and associated expenditure, living expenses, and earnings forgone during the process of education. There is, as with other investments, an expectation of a return. In the same way, state and society invest in the education of citizens and members through the provision of educational facilities and subsidies. In China the state provision of education predominates, although there is a growing private sector, especially in higher education (Li et al., 2011; Li and Morgan, 2013). This constitutes a major stake in the education of Chinese graduates which expects a social return on the investment made (Li et al., 2011). It is also a key aspect of labour mobility or the capacity of workers, including highly qualified ones, to move freely, in our case physically, from one geographical location to another. This remains problematic in China, chiefly because of the continued, if moderated, application of the household registration system or hukou and of the work unit system.3 Yet such mobility is a fundamental aspect of the effective functioning of an open labour market. These may be seen as relatively neglected aspects of economic and social justice in contemporary China. The theory suggests that, through the process of migration, employment is created that benefits both individuals and society. The former benefit through acquiring employment with its guarantee of income; the latter from the increase.