Fight against 'brain drain'

Updated: 2013-10-30 08:17

By Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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Fight against 'brain drain'

Government provides generous salaries and incentives to lure the best talent, but obstacles remain on their way home, reports Zhang Yuchen.

Faced with a shrinking pool of high-level talent in recent years, China has established a number of programs to tackle the "brain drain", while simultaneously encouraging a "brain gain". While some have produced encouraging results, others have encountered setbacks.

The number of Chinese studying abroad has increased from fewer than 120,000 in 2003 to about 400,000 now.

Fight against 'brain drain'

Last year, 272,900 students, holding a variety of qualifications, returned to China. But of the 2.64 million Chinese who have studied overseas since 1978, only 1.09 million have returned.

"The longer these talented individuals stay overseas, the less willing they are to come back. Many of them fear that they may have to start all over again when they return," said Wang Yaohui, director of the Center for China & Globalization, a Beijing think tank that advises the government on the recruitment of talent.

Chinese people with a PhD who have lived overseas for three to five years seldom choose to return, according to a report by the Blue Book of Global Talent, which was released in September by the Social Sciences Academic Press, a publisher affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Fight against 'brain drain'

In 2008, the government launched the "Thousand Talents Plan" to tempt the well-educated Chinese back to their homeland after studying and working abroad. The program also embarked on a headhunting exercise to pinpoint and actively encourage the very best talent to return.

The stated goal of the plan was to attract 2,000 established academics and entrepreneurs with overseas PhDs and research experience to return to China within 10 years. It provides generous salaries and start-up packages, along with tax and housing incentives to lure the best talent.

Although the country is attempting to balance its human resources problem, described by some observers as the "worst" brain drain in the world, few top specialists in science and engineering plan to return.

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