Having Vocational Education and Underpaid Internship: Project of Human Capital Formation Among Disadvantaged Youths in China

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:30
Location: H├Ârsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Anita KOO, Hong Kong Polytechnic Unviersity, Hong Kong
In contemporary China, under the ideology that education and training are the key to the future of individuals, families and children place a high value on education. At the same time, academic credentials are traditionally valued higher than vocational ones as they are commonly regarded as more promising for high status jobs and economic success. When an increasing number of children from resourceful families chase academic qualifications in the expanded education market, vocational degrees are left for poorly performing students and those from poor families. This paper describes the high demand for the vocational credentials and internship opportunities among the disadvantaged youths, and their strong commitment to the belief in human capital investment. It also investigates the expansion of vocational schooling and internships that operates in the guise of training and skill development that match the needs of ever-changing labour market. Based on the fieldwork data collected in vocational schools in Chengdu, I find the students learn to ease every opportunity to invest on their own human capital to ensure their forward career progression. They look for courses to acquire additional certificates, complete unpaid or underpaid internship programs to train themselves at the own costs. When these learning and training programs are promoted to young people as ways to enhance their employability, the labour market only tap these programs as sources of inexpensive and flexible labour. This paper showcases the aspirations of disadvantaged classes in the human capital regime of neoliberal times, and their fear of lagging behind the crowd in the globalizing and neoliberalizing Chinese economy that built on a flexible and precarious labour regime.