Job Market in China

With many Western countries having stagnating economies and high unemployment (7.9% in the US, 11.2% in the EU), more foreigners than ever are coming to Mainland China to live and work. China's economy is shifting from a producer to a consumer, with millions of competent 20- and 30-year-olds seeking work. These variables (and others) impact expat work options in China. Here are some pointers for success in China's evolving expat work environment.

Expect less

Lower your expectations from China's "expat employment market" a decade ago. Previously, foreigners could readily find high-paying jobs. With the labor market diminishing owing to rising competition from foreigners and skilled Chinese, "face jobs"—hiring an archetypal Westerner for their look and English—are becoming less tempting, pricey, and unneeded for many organizations. Colin Friedman, managing director of China Expert International, said more Chinese workers with good English and lower salary expectations are filling these roles. In the past, there were numerous [expat] job openings but not enough candidates, but that has changed. Too much competition makes high-paying "face jobs" rare.

Accept lower pay

Expats earn more than Chinese peers for the same work. While "inflated" expat incomes don't appear to be declining or growing, they are becoming weaker in real terms as the cost of living continues to rise—likely due to the Yuan's continuous rise against the Euro and Dollar, inflation, and the expansion of the Chinese economy. Shenzhen and Guangzhou climbed from 55 to 49 and 56 to 34 on ECA International's 2012 list of most expensive cities for expat employees. London ranks 62 and Madrid 83. The poll doesn't include housing, electricity, automobile purchases, or school expenses since they're commonly included in job packages. Meat and seafood in these two Guangdong cities have climbed 12 percent since 2011, while taxis, leases, electricity, haircuts, and just about everything else have also risen.


10 years ago, understanding Mandarin wasn't required for many expat jobs. It was a tiebreaker between two foreign candidates. Fluent Mandarin is no longer "a plus" in China's employment market for expats—needed. it's A recruiter at Beijing Meidan Foods now needs international workers to learn Mandarin, according to a New York Times report. The recruiter remarked that Mandarin-speaking foreigners who understand Chinese culture had an easier time working in the workplace and with their Chinese colleagues. Learning Mandarin makes networking and guanxi simpler. Guanxi is a basic principle of Chinese business and society, equivalent to "It's not what you know, but who you know." Meeting the proper people, particularly those in authority, and speaking their language may lead to amazing career opportunities if you play your cards well.

Skill besides Mandarin

Mandarin is a must-have talent for expats working in China, but it's not the only one. IT and financial industries are major employers of foreigners in China, along with marketing, PR, management, and sales. In today's expat employment market, these skills are invaluable. Speaking Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, or Arabic in addition to Mandarin and English might help you stand out in an international Chinese firm. Many foreigners searching for work in China lack these abilities. If you don't have a degree or expertise in your preferred field, take an online course, apply for an internship, or start your own business. It's simple to locate a language school in any of China's bigger, more international cities.

Second- or third-tier city

The supply-and-demand economic law applies to labor. Moving farther from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen (where foreigners are many) may boost your chances of being recruited owing to reduced competition. First-tier cities may have more possibilities, but that doesn't mean the rest are empty. Inland cities are flourishing. According to a 2011 China Daily report, western cities like Chongqing and Chengdu are some of the best investment destinations in China due to their large populations, established universities, low operational costs, and billions of RMB in federal funding from the PRC's "western development strategy" campaign. Many Fortune 500 corporations have already moved away from the coast and to these western hubs. Cisco and HP have bases in Chongqing, while Intel and Motorola have R&D facilities in Chengdu.

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