Article by Christina R. Roca
When pondering our next career move, we usually have some sense of what we want to do, whether it’s the industry or company we want to work for or, for the entrepreneurial types, the business we want to open up, is usually not a total mystery. The location of our next job is also crucial and needs to be considered carefully.
Not only will it define the type of lifestyle we will enjoy, but also the economic situation of the country we immigrate to will define our career opportunities as well.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China became the top economy in the world at the end of 2014, surpassing the United States for the first time . With a GDP growth of nearly 10% over the past decades, it is the fastest growing economy in the world .
Though the economic crisis of 2008 affected China and its labour market due to a drastic drop in its exports (30 million jobs were lost in the first quarter of 2009), the Chinese government invested more than 4 trillion RMB to keep its economy flowing .
This plan kept Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) coming in and they have helped the foreign trade sector considerably, making China a preferred investment destination in the world, behind only the EU and the USA .
And, with a steady unemployment rate around 4% since 1996 (now around 4.1%) , it’s no wonder foreigners see China as a super-power: according to a Global Times survey of respondents from 20 countries, “China is perceived by […] foreigners as a global power as a result of the country’s wider participation in international affairs […] in 2015”.
FIGURE 1: HOW FOREIGNERS PERCEIVE CHINA
Robert Peston, the BBC Economics Editor, analyses the way China avoided the worst after the financial crisis hit us in 2008, by pushing its banks to lend “like there was no tomorrow”. He says: “[…] investment went up from an already extremely high 40% or so of GDP, to about 50% and the growth rate picked up again. There’s been nothing like it in the history of capitalism. It’s astonishing.”
Now, its GDP gross having plummeted to 6.9% in Q3 2015, China faces a slowdown that could have repercussions in the world economy if it leads to deflation . Higher unemployment in the country is to be expected. Mr. Peston adds: “We should be under no illusion that the really big thing in the world, which will have an impact on our living standards, is what happens in China. Nothing else really matters in comparison.”
FIGURES 2: China’s GDP Annual Growth Rate (2014-2015)
Legend: It is the slowest growth since the first quarter of 2009, when Beijing was hit by the world’s harshest financial crisis. China’s deceleration is mainly due to a “slowdown in industrial output, sluggish property investment and a contraction in exports”.
But as foreigners living and working in China, how are we affected by all this? There is one thing we can notice, for starters: since 2013, it has been harder to get a working visa. China introduced new visa laws, restricting the number of expats able to work. Not only that, but the Employment-Protection Legislation index, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), has reached yet another high, demonstrating the country’s devotion to protecting its own citizens from unemployment. It is now comparable to other developed countries’ indexes.
A Safety Manager based in Xi’an, working for a multi-national construction company with an 18-month contract believes there are still opportunities for the skilled expat workers. “I had the experience and knowledge they needed to carry out this important task of implementing the proper procedures of working on a construction site,” the manager said. “China’s Labor Market is maturing, which is a common phenomenon in developing and developed countries. In the near future, for immigrants looking for work, it will get tougher, as China will have its own citizens, more than qualified for most jobs…because [foreigners] trained them!”
You have probably heard of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s latest speech on the economy’s status, referring it to the “new normal” to describe “a crucial rebalancing, one in which the country diversifies its economy, embraces a more sustainable level of growth, and distributes the benefits more evenly”. So, to a certain extent, “China’s demographic hangover and the country’s transition to a consumption-based economy are actually good news”, according to Damien Ma and William Adams who write for Foreign Affairs.
So yes, fewer jobs for us, but the best of us will get selected and be part of the country’s mature workforce and more efficient and sustainable jobs will be created. Like any other developed country, the Tertiary sector will continue to grow and create challenging opportunities for newcomers. Just think how you can benefit from China’s changing labor market.
Why Choose China? is an ongoing look at professional development in China and the personaliti es who decided to embark on or enrich their careers here.
Christina R. Roca is a French-American working in the Marketing and Sales dept of a 5-star hotel. She started her China life as a university teacher in 2013 then moving over to hospitality where she has worked at two different hotels in Xi’an. You can contact her via Wechat: XtinaMusic12
- The IMF calculated these fi gures by using purchasing power parity (PPP) which enables you to compare how much you can buy for your money in different countries.
- GDP fi gures supplied by China, the current premier, Li Keqiang, says are “for reference only”.
- “Post-Crisis Infrastructure Investment and Economic Growth in China” by Huang, Shi and Zhou
- The United Nation Conference of Trade and Development released a report on 23 October 2012, stating that China replaced the US as the world’s top destination for FDI by attracting US$59.1 billion in the fi rst six months of 2012.
- UNDP, Human Development Report, World Bank, World Development Indicators, OECD, Bertelsmann Country Report, 2008 and Wikipedia China page (2015)
- Defl ation, not to be confused with disinfl ation, or a slowing rate of infl ation, is dangerous because it reduces the supply of money and credit coursing through the economy. (foreignaffairs.com)
- tradingeconomics.com from National Bureau of Statistics of China
- Embracing China’s “New Normal” – Why the Economy Is Still on Track – By Hu Angang (foreignaffairs.com)
- Where Have All the Workers Gone? – China’s Labor Shortage and the End of the Panda Boom – By Damien Ma and William Adams (foreignaffairs.com)