GUANGZHOU: Ms Peng Xiao, 33, moved back to her hometown of Chongqing in 2004 because of high living costs in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou. Like tens of thousands of young people at that time, she was also drawn to the prospect of a slower pace of life, and probably a happier one, in the less developed parts of China
A report published in March by consulting firm Adfaith said that 76 per cent of workers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are thinking of leaving the first-tier cities, reported Global Times.
And more than 80 per cent of them said that they would move back to smaller cities once they have the opportunity to do so.
But observers have noticed an interesting phenomenon recently. Young workers are returning to the big cities they once fled from.
Some of those who had escaped to the second- and third-tier cities are going back to the big cities after having difficulties adjusting to life back home, reported the Chinese media.
Ms Li Han, now back in Beijing seeking employment, is one of them. Just last year, the Henan native worked at an advertising company in the capital before being forced to return to her hometown of Zhengzhou.
'The landlord wanted to raise the rent by 500 yuan (S$95) and it was impossible to negotiate. I suddenly felt like a homeless person,' she told the Beijing Evening News.
With help from a friend, Ms Li soon found a job at a government- backed institution in Zhengzhou. But she soon found out that it takes more than hard work to make a good employee.
The newcomers were not entitled to bonus payments, a rule that apparently did not apply to another new girl at the institution, as her father was the head of a local bureau, Ms Li said.
'It might be very hard in Beijing but you can always count on your hard work. Companies usually have a transparent payment system, unlike in the inland provinces, where there are so many under-the-table deals,' she said.
Ms Peng, too, moved back to Guangzhou. She cited the difficulties in getting things done in Chongqing without having the right connections, or guanxi.
Now the vice-president of an advertising company in the southern metropolis, she left Chongqing in 2007 after working there for three years.
'It is hard to find the common values with friends I used to have and enter the already completed social network of connections,' Ms Peng told the Global Times.
Things are different in the big cities, she said.
'As long as you have the ability, you can always find your place here,' she said.
Despite their high costs of living and stressful work environment, experts say working in the big cities still has its advantages.
Researcher Zhang Xuyin, who is with the China Population and Development Research Centre, told the Global Times: 'The level of social equality is much higher in the more developed regions. The price you pay for under-the-table business is extremely high.'