As Hou Jun, a migrant from Sichuan who came to Beijing in 2000, explained to TLN, "We are staying for our daughter to be able to attend middle
school in Beijing for two more years. Education here is better and we already paid the outsider fee for non-Beijing hukou holders for her to
attend school here [in their case, a sum of 12,000 RMB (just under $2,000) or about 25 percent of their combined annual income]. She will not be able to go to high school here,
anyway, because of her hukou, so we plan on returning to Chengdu when she completes middle school. Things are very different in Chengdu from when we left.
There are jobs now. Salaries wouldn't be as high in Chengdu, but there we wouldn't have to pay 75 percent of my salary for rent and we could work closer to where
we live. We have never quite felt at home in Beijing anyway."
But Ms. Hou added: "We decided to take our child with us. Many friends around us are actually returning to be with their children back home, who are being
raised by their grandparents. They realize that not seeing their children grow up is too great of a price to pay, especially now that they might actually
be able to save more money for their child's education by going home. "
While migrant worker parents have been fighting for their children's right to access a superior high school education in Beijing, the Chinese capital has
so far been extremely reluctant to extend educational equality to migrant workers' children. Exceptions, such as the recent opening up of vocational
schools to non-hukou holders, come with long lists of provisos.
The "tide of return" has also swept up college-educated white collar workers, who crowded the shiny high rises in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as
high-paying job opportunities at large companies tended to be concentrated in these metropolises. As Jia Yixiao, a college graduate from small-town Hebei
explained to TLN, "I don't know about migrant workers, but as for university graduates, there are incentives to return. For example: guaranteed
job placement if you transfer your hukou back home, or a 3,000 RMB gift."
Considering the brutal work schedule and bleak prospects that many young white-collar workers face in Beijing, Ms. Jia finds a return to the provinces
increasingly understandable. "Regional cities have now developed better all-round living environments -- you will have everything you need and prospects to
keep moving up the career ladder outside of Beijing and Shanghai too," she said.
For college graduates, the pressure to buy an apartment is a significant factor in their calculations. A recent online poll on this subject revealed that 62.5 percent of the participants working in
first-tier cities have plans to buy property back home, and as many as 87.5 percent of the respondents thinks this is a good time to do so. In the Chinese New
Year period, housing sales in second and third-tier cities surged. Advertisements read: "Why don't you come back frequently and buy a house for your
parents? It can be your back-up plan..."