The Controversy of Collecting Junk by Graduates of 211 Universities: Is Education a Ball and Chain for Young People?

Alex Lew, CFA
5 min readMar 25, 2023

Recently, a 95s graduate from Zhengzhou University in Henan Province attracted attention in the media for choosing to collect junk as a business instead of engaging in mechanical work. She claims to have achieved financial freedom with a monthly income in the five digits, and stated that “we should not let education become our shackles.” This phenomenon of highly educated graduates engaging in low-skilled jobs has caused many discussions in China, with some people agreeing with this choice, while others questioning the value of a higher education.

Many people associate this trend with the “Kong Yiji Literature” that has become popular recently. In the story “Kong Yiji” written by Lu Xun, Kong Yiji is a highly educated scholar who is forced to become a beggar because of his low social status. He is compared to a man wearing a long robe, which he cannot take off. This character has resonated with many young people in China who feel that their education has limited their choices in life and career.

However, is it true that education is a ball and chain for young people? Does not having a higher education mean that one can pursue any career without regard for what others think? Many netizens have argued that highly educated graduates engaging in low-skilled jobs waste societal resources, and that years of education would be meaningless if they chose these jobs. These debates reflect different views on the value of higher education and how it affects one’s career choices.

The Value of Education

Education is an essential component of individual development and national progress. It is a tool that equips individuals with knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to face various challenges in life. In China, education has become increasingly important for social mobility, economic prosperity, and personal fulfillment. As a result, parents and young people invest heavily in education, hoping to secure a better future.

However, the value of education is not only measured by its economic returns but also by its intrinsic value. Education helps individuals develop critical thinking, creativity, communication, and problem-solving skills. These skills are valuable not only in the workplace but also in daily life. They help individuals navigate complex social and environmental issues, contribute to civic participation and community development, and promote personal growth and fulfillment.

Therefore, education is not a ball and chain that limits one’s choices in life but rather a valuable asset that opens up opportunities and enhances one’s capacity to make informed decisions. Highly educated individuals have broader perspectives, deeper insights, and higher-level skills that enable them to adapt to changing circumstances, identify opportunities, and pursue their goals more effectively.

The Dilemma of Employment

Despite the benefits of higher education, many graduates in China face challenges in finding suitable jobs. This situation has become increasingly apparent in recent years, with a significant increase in the number of graduates and the decrease in the number of job opportunities. This phenomenon has led to a growing number of highly educated graduates engaging in low-skilled jobs or even unemployment, leading to many debates on the value of higher education.

One of the reasons for this phenomenon is the mismatch between the skills that graduates possess and the skills required by the job market. Many graduates lack practical skills, work experience, and networking opportunities that would enable them to secure better jobs. Moreover, many graduates face discrimination based on their education level, with employers preferring less-educated candidates who are perceived as more humble and easier to manage.

Another reason is the social pressure to conform to the societal expectations of success. Many young people are pressured by their parents and peers to secure prestigious jobs or to pursue higher education. However, the limited job opportunities and the high competition for these jobs have made it increasingly difficult for graduates to achieve these goals. As a result, continue many young people feel frustrated and disillusioned with the traditional notions of success and are turning to alternative paths, such as entrepreneurship or pursuing their passions, even if it means engaging in low-skilled jobs.

The Importance of Choice and Diversification

While the choice of highly educated graduates to engage in low-skilled jobs has sparked controversy, it is important to recognize that this choice is a form of agency and self-determination. It reflects the desire of young people to pursue their interests and passions, to find meaning and fulfillment in their lives, and to challenge the traditional expectations of success.

Moreover, this choice reflects the need for diversification in the job market. The job market needs a diverse range of skills, talents, and experiences, and it is not necessary that every highly educated graduate should pursue a prestigious job or a career in their field of study. Low-skilled jobs, such as collecting junk or working as a cleaner, are essential for society’s functioning, and they provide valuable skills and experiences that can be transferred to other contexts.

However, this choice should not be perceived as a rejection of education or as an alternative to acquiring skills and knowledge. Rather, it should be viewed as a complementary approach to education that values both practical skills and academic knowledge. In other words, highly educated graduates who engage in low-skilled jobs can still benefit from education by applying their knowledge and skills in new contexts, developing new skills, and enhancing their creativity and innovation.

Furthermore, the choice to engage in low-skilled jobs should not be stigmatized or discriminated against. It is important to recognize that every job has value and dignity and that the choice of a job should be based on one’s interests, abilities, and opportunities, rather than societal expectations or stereotypes.


The controversy of highly educated graduates engaging in low-skilled jobs reflects the complex interplay between education, employment, and societal expectations. While education is an essential asset that opens up opportunities and enhances one’s capacity to make informed decisions, the job market may not always align with the skills and expectations of graduates, leading to frustration and disillusionment. The choice to engage in low-skilled jobs should be viewed as a form of agency and diversification that complements education, rather than a rejection of it. It is important to value every job and to provide equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their education level.