Why Choose China? – Finding jobs in today’s economy

Article by Christina R. Roca

“China GDP Annual Growth Rate – Forecast 2016-2020”, tradingeconomics.com
Survey conducted in 2014 on 10,000 expats from over 100 countries for the HSBC Expats Explorer Report 2015
“The Chinese model is nearing its end” by George Magnus, the Macau Daily Times (August 2015)
“China’s labour market: Shocks and absorbers” by Zheng Yi, The Economist (January 2016)
“Mainland Economic Growth Declines To 6-Year Low” by Joe McDonald, The Macau Daily Times (October 2015)
“China: World’s largest supplier of educated workers” by Annalyn Censky, CNN Money (June 2012)
“Why do so many Chinese students choose US universities?” by Sarah Svoboda, BBC (June 2015)
“China is still a jobs hotspot for expats” by Matt Durnin, BBC (February 2014)
“China’s Expat Makeup: It’s Evolving, Not Shrinking” by China-Briefing.com (June 2014)
“Work In China: Essential Facts On Employment Opportunities For Expats” by Hudson, a recruiting agency throughout Asia (published around last quarter of 2014)
“Introduction: Job opportunities for foreigners in China”, justlanded.com
“Expats in China Turn to Entrepreneurship” by Dan Redford, Chinausfocus.com (April 2015)
“New policy announced to attract more foreign talent” by Ding Xuezhen, The Global Times (January 2016)
“China looks to move career barriers for top foreign talents” by Su Zhou (January 2016) and “Government keen to attract foreign talent to boost workforce” by Liu Xiangrui (December 2015), China Daily
“The Battle for China’s Talent” by Conrad Schmidt for The Harvard Business Review (March 2011) and “Is China creating a workforce with no soft skills?” by Jeremy Chan, British Council (March 2015)
HSK V is often taken as a reference for the minimum Mandarin level required to work in a Chinese company. The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) or the Chinese Proficiency Test is an international standardized exam which tests and rates Chinese language proficiency: chinaeducenter.com

15-2China has entered a new phase in its development: Beijing has become a bigger player in the world economy, with a lot of uncertainty about its own. But despite some pessimistic forecasts about the Mainland’s growth rate , the country is still ranked in the top three destinations for expats in terms of career progression, financial wellbeing and quality of life.

However, the labor market is more competitive and less advantageous for expats here than it was 10 years ago. Why is it harder to land a job in China?

The official unemployment rate, supposedly about 4.1 percent, should be closer to 6.3 and rising, states the International Labour Organisation.  China’s economy should, in theory, be able to accommodate many of the unemployed . “Despite a slowdown in the industrial sector, China’s services sector is growing rapidly.” said Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman for the Chinese statistics agency .

It is hard to imagine that with 7 million graduates entering the market each year  and more and more Chinese managers returning to the country armed with MBAs and international experience , there are any jobs for foreigners left! A BBC analysis reads: “There’s no doubt the need for English-speaking generalists is quickly receding.”

15-3According to an expert at ChinaBriefing.com, expatriates nowadays have specialized jobs, are highly qualified and 85 percent of them can be found working for Foreign-Invested Enterprises. Only a small percentage of expatriates work for Chinese companies – mainly as engineers or managers in high-tech manufacturing firms. They are dispersed and based in remote and less-developed regions in order to get closer to the growing Chinese middle-class – 250 million people today, 600 million by 2020. “The new breed of China expats are explorers […]”, the expert writes. “They are […] also more likely to be Asian”.

Approximately 40 percent of the expat jobs in China are in sales and marketing, 20 percent in engineering, 10 percent in management (including accounting and finance); IT jobs represent only about 5 percent  and teaching jobs about 17 percent.

So which jobs can foreigners hope to get today?

Engineering and IT: plenty of challenging and well-paid opportunities are being created for high-skilled engineers. Having expertise in clean energy, automobile, architecture, oil and gas, is a real asset. Foreign IT specialists are also in demand to expand local brands’ online presence.

Accounting and Finance/ Real Estate: experts with accounting and auditing skills are sought out. Experts in the banking and financial services industry also continue to be in demand, as China opens up this sector to foreign companies. Chinese people are also looking for solid investment opportunities and selling foreign properties is in vogue.

Sales/ Logistics and Marketing: with a growing domestic market to target and exports of high tech products increasing, employees in international sales and marketing are needed. For marketing professionals who can directly drive revenue (e-commerce managers, for e.g.), opportunities abound. You can either work for a local company wanting to go global or a foreign company wanting to adapt to the local market.

Teaching: they are plentiful jobs in teaching! A growing number of Chinese want a more Western-style education; institutions are also looking for native-English speakers to give math, science or history classes.

The entrepreneurs here can hope for a bright future, too. More than 100 foreign tech start-ups have popped up in the last few years, and the Chinese government is giving substantial loans to encourage this trend.

15-1The country also wishes to drastically increase the number of “foreign experts”. Wang Huiyao, director of a Chinese think tank, the Center for China and Globalization, found that foreigners only account for 0.06 percent in China. In contrast, foreigners represent around 1.6 percent of developing countries’ population, 10 percent of that in developed countries!

“China is short of international talent, especially high-level intellectuals and professionals, which are vital for a country’s innovation and future development.” Wang warns.

For its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), the Chinese government is making it easier for foreigners seeking opportunities, according to Zhang Jianguo, director of the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. For the past few years, foreign experts’ suggestions, in all fields of the economy, are sought out as means of policy consultation in hope for a more sustainable growth.

Though the profile of expats is evolving, you can still turn to Multinational Corporations: since the economic slowdown in Western countries, China’s top talents have seen MNCs as less attractive to work for and are migrating to domestic employers; maybe only temporarily, but MNCs will need to fill key gaps in middle management and senior leadership and recruit foreigners to be the bridge between two cultures and bring the soft skills desperately needed.

So if you want to apply for the best-paying and challenging jobs, knowing conversational Mandarin  and the local culture certainly gives you greater options nowadays!