(ECNS) -- After graduating from the Communication University of China in Beijing, Chen Xiao left the capital to work for an education institution in Southwest China's Chongqing municipality.
"I don't have a sense of belonging in Beijing. It is hard for me to get used to the climate and life style," Chen said.
"Rent, traffic expenditure, and meals take a large bite out of our salaries," Chen said. "And if I stay in Beijing, it's likely that most of my time will be occupied by work." Life is not only for working, she added.
"I know it is very hard to live there. Many people work in Beijing for some years and then return to their hometowns, saying their work experience can help them gain better jobs. But I think it is better to return after university," she said.
Chen is one of a growing number of graduates who choose to leave first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and work in second-tier cities such as Wuhan, Changsha and Chengdu.
Although small and less developed, these cities have favorable conditions, including entrepreneurial incentives, housing subsidies, registered residence permits, or Hukou, and settlement policies, to encourage talent to live and work here.
Instead of swarming to first-tier cities, more students said salary and development space were more important factors than city size when they came to decide in which cities to start their career, a recently survey found.
The survey, which was conducted by a research center under China Youth Daily, canvassed 2,002 college students and graduates, and found 64.3 percent said salary was the first thing they considered when choosing which city to base themselves in, followed by the potential for career development, at 59.3 percent, and city size, 43.9 percent.
Around 59.9 percent said they hoped second-tier cities could provide a more relaxing environment for employees and entrepreneurs, while 49.7 percent said the cities' preferential terms were attractive.
Compared with first-tier cities, second-tier equivalents needed to improve public service systems, according to 63.7 percent of respondents, with 58.3 percent saying they hoped these cities could expand their economic volume and create more jobs. About 33 percent of respondents said promoting cities' soft power was crucial.
This year, the number of college graduates in China is expected to reach 7.95 million, an increase of 300,000 over last year, according to the Ministry of Education.
Some second-tier cities have offered various preferential policies to attract talents during graduation season. The most alluring policies for graduates are incentives for employment or starting up businesses (65.9 percent), favorable housing policies (64 percent) and easier Hukou policies (51 percent), the survey shows.
Jian Xinhua, a professor with Wuhan University, said high-quality labor was an important factor that could drive city development. Higher living costs and cut-throat competition in megacities was daunting. With favorable employment terms, second-tier cities would become more attractive to college graduates, it was added.