Effects of Social Supports on the Career Choice Consideration of Chinese Farmers: A Social Cognitive Perspective

Article excerpt

Drawing from social cognitive career theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994), this study explored social supports' influence on the career choice consideration of farmers during China's current process of urbanization. A questionnaire was designed based on interviews with 140 people and a pretest with a sample of 419 participants. A total of 628 participants were involved in the formal questionnaire survey. Results indicated that social supports had a dual effect: Positive supports were indirectly related to career choice consideration through the mediation of career self-efficacy, whereas negative supports were related to career choice consideration directly. Implications for future research and the development of a career guidance and social support system for Chinese farmers are discussed.

Keywords: Chinese farmers, social supports, career choice consideration, career self-efficacy

Surplus of rural labor has been a hot issue in China's process of urbanization. Currently, rural residents account for approximately 70% of the Chinese population (Xinhua News Agency, 2009), and this percentage is high even in relatively economically developed provinces. Zhejiang is one such province. It has a population of 47.5 million (Zhejiang Provincial Bureau of Statistics, 201 1 ), and the per capita gross domestic product was approximately $8,000 in 2010 (Zhejiang Provincial Bureau of Statistics, 2011). However, the rural population in Zhejiang is high at 69% (Zhejiang Provincial Bureau of Statistics, 2011), and per capita arable land is approximately 0.04 hectares (400 square meters; China National Bureau of Statistics, 2011). Thus, an increasing number of farmers (this term is used to refer to people living in rural areas in this article) can barely earn a living by traditional farming and often turn to the cities for employment. In recent years, various measures have been conducted to improve farmers' employment opportunities and living conditions; nevertheless, their employment situation does not seem to have improved given their continued poor education, lack of skills, and experiences of unfair and discriminatory treatment by society. Therefore, it seems urgent to accelerate the creation of social supports to promote a friendly environment for farmers' employment.

Social supports for farmers include their contacts with the surrounding organizations and individuals related to them, as well as material and mental supports from those organizations and individuals (D. Wang, 2005). Social supports are composed of two basic aspects: (a) the perception of whether there is a sufficient number of available others to whom one can turn in times of need and (b) the degree of satisfaction with the available support (Vaux, 1988). It has been statistically supported that social supports are closely related to one's health, well-being, academic achievement, and career success. Many researchers have studied social supports from different aspects and developed their studies to include vulnerable groups such as laid-off workers, women, people with disabilities, and older adults (e.g., Silverstein, Parrott, & Bengtson, 1995; Spitze & Logan, 1990; Zhang, Li, Fan, & Huang, 2002; Zhao, 2000). However, the research of social supports for Chinese formers is still in its beginning, especially with respect to the micro and psychological aspects, let alone the research about the relationship between farmers' social supports and their career behaviors.

On the basis of Bandura's (1986) general social cognitive theory, Lent, Brown, and Hackett ( 1994) proposed social cognitive career theory (SCCT) by combining psychological, social, and economic factors to explain the process of individual career development. It was assumed that current environmental factors, such as employment discriminations and interventions by families or other important people, are directly related to one's career choice consideration (direct effect). Lent and colleagues (Lent et al. …