Vocational Identity Formation of College Students in Macau

By Ouyang, Baixiao; Jin, Shuh-Ren et al. | Career Development Quarterly, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Vocational Identity Formation of College Students in Macau


Ouyang, Baixiao, Jin, Shuh-Ren, Tien, Hsiu-Lan Shelley, Career Development Quarterly


Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China, consists of Macau Peninsula (attached to mainland China) and two islands. With very limited natural resources, Macau's economic development is centered on luxury casinos. It is now touted as the "Las Vegas of the East" because of its prosperous development in its gambling industry. Many high school students graduate or even drop out of school to work in casinos to earn a living (Chang, Jin, Vong, & Sze, 2009; So, Chan, & Hong, 2006). Within this context, we examine how Macau's adolescents form their personal career identities in a rapidly changing society.

Economic and Social Context in Macau

Macau, with a population of 646,800 (Statistics and Census Service, 2015), was a former Portuguese colony until its handover to China in 1998. Macau provides a typical context for examining a mixture of Western and Chinese values in a changing economic and social environment. The liberalization of the gambling sector since 2003 has resulted in dramatic economic growth and massive expansion. The dynamic nature and growing complexity of adult roles in modern societies, including Macau, have made it more difficult and stressful for emerging adults to develop a vocational identity (Skorikov & Vondracek, 2011).

The career development of emerging adults in Macau has become a critical and challenging issue. Environmental factors have been found to impose barriers but also offer opportunities to an individual's identity formation (Archer, 1992, 1994; Goossens & Phinney, 1996; Yoder, 2000). For example, Mortimer, Zimmer-Gembeck, Holmes, and Shanahan (2002) found that emerging adults' vocational development is very sensitive to macroenvironmental factors, such as the economic structure and labor market. Leung (2002) argued that the specific educational tracking system and strict college entrance policy in Chinese societies have created indigenous challenges to vocational education and counseling. Thus, investigations on how collective values and environmental factors influence college students' vocational identity formation can guide career education, counseling, and policy making for development of emerging adults in these areas.

Individual Versus Collective Values

Cultural differences in people's daily lives yield differences in their identity processes (Hesketh & Rounds, 1995; Vignoles, Schwartz, & Luyckx, 2011). Some researchers have argued that individualistic cultures tend to result in an emphasis on the use of private self-evaluations, reinforcing autonomy and independence in the development of identity. By contrast, in collectivist cultures, self-evaluation and identity are fostered through group membership, whereby private or individual goals are subordinated to those of the group (Hesketh & Rounds, 1995; Ho, 1995). It seems that people from collectivist cultures prefer to view identity more often as a group project than do people from individualistic cultures (Savickas, 2011a). Personal identity for people in Eastern cultures seems easier to be influenced by group values.

The unique social orientation of Chinese people has been discussed as a typical reflection of collectivism and social behavior in Chinese societies (Yang, 1995, 2003; Yang & Lu, 2008). As supportive evidence, research indicates that in Chinese societies, significant others can be highly involved in the vocational exploration and decision-making process of emerging adults (Cheung & Arnold, 2010). Interpersonal considerations are valued more than person-centered factors in choosing one's vocational path (Lin, Huang, Chiu, & Jiang, 2007).

According to Yang, Liu, Chang, and Wang (2010), individuals in changing modern Chinese societies embrace individualistic values and hold a traditional social orientation in the process of globalization. They may develop a self-system compatible with both collectivism and individualism in their daily behaviors. …

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