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The Job Map – Understanding the Chinese Job Market

Known as the Middle Kingdom by its residents, China is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. China’s emergence as the world’s second largest economy after nearly a century of political unrest and poverty is nothing but incredible. It goes in the books as the world’s most formidable superpower and who wouldn’t want to be associated with such a dynamic economy that takes pride in being home to industry leading companies in almost every field. Work experience in the Peoples Republic of China will beyond doubt provide you with first-hand information and will boost your resume in such a major way.

According to China’s Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security, the number of foreign workers working in the Chinese Mainland (excluding Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong regions) increased to more than 240,000 in 2012. That was a 17% increase from the numbers in 2007. Beijing and Shanghai have always scored the most popular expat destination with Hong Kong following close behind, especially for financial service workers.

Almost half of the expat population comes from the US, and the UK has around 20%. The statistics mainly represent the expatriates in specialized jobs and highly qualified workers which clearly underlines how paramount it is to tailor your CV if you care for an expat role in China.

Most foreigners fall in love with China once they arrive and there are statistics to prove it. HSBC carried out a survey in 2013 with 7,000 global expatriates who ranked China as the overall best destination, coming ahead of Germany while Singapore followed closely. The analysis was based on answers that covered bringing Children abroad and also employment packages. Even with the challenges in the Chinese job market, some foreign workers have managed to carve out a niche for themselves at all career stages.

Locations

The three most prominent cities in China include Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. Xi’an represent the past, Beijing the present and Shanghai the past.

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Xi’an

This is the original capital city of China which dates back to over 4000 years. It offers tons of teaching jobs in English and other languages and is a great place to see history. Other jobs available in Xi’an range from business administration to arts and engineering.

Beijing

This is the current capital city of China and it is thriving in economics, culture, and history. Beijing has so many opportunities to offer with teaching English being the most common work for foreigners. Better known as the shadow of the Forbidden City, it also offers positions in international law, hospitality, and international business.

Shanghai

If your primary focus is business, then this is your ideal choice. It is China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. Its glamor is what draws most foreigners in, and it’s the drive within it that makes them want to settle. It’s also known as the most densely populated city in the world, and the available opportunities range from supply chain management, graphic design, marketing to investing and so much more. As one of the world’s top investment centers, Shanghai is a true intellectual and cultural experience for everybody.

“Small Town” China

For the less traditional Chinese experience, then you will enjoy working in cities such as Kunming and Hangzhou. As China’s’ most beautiful city, Hangzhou takes pride in being home to the World’s famous West Lake and for maintaining the old world culture and historical architecture. It has plenty of opportunities for teaching English but also so many other offers. Kunming, on the other hand, has stiff competition for sports management and journalism enthusiasts and also offers English teaching positions.

Jobs In China

Over the past decade, China has gained global recognition due to its political prowess and strengthening the economy. It has been on the map for being such an advantageous location for all business aspects including marketing, investing and management. It also offers a myriad of opportunities in performing arts, hospitality, and education.

Business and Economics

China is big on the provision of job opportunities in the fields of economics and business across the country. They hire foreigners who can help create English advertisements especially for companies that are into expanding to the West or multinational corporations that are keen on portfolio diversification.

Corporate Culture

Chinese strongly believe in work ethic and the corporate culture is very imperative. The mode of operation for most companies is a vertical hierarchy with admirable respect between the employees and employers. The importance of maintaining company reputation in China is very paramount hence the push to maintain a high level of respect in the workplace relationships. It’s not always that serious since the lunch breaks are pretty important and not forgetting the popular after lunch naps in the cubicles.

Education

China is definitely on the international maps on many arenas and education is obviously part of all that. China’s need for English teachers is very high, and the same goes to teachers of other languages. Teaching in China is arguably the biggest career for it not only makes you experience a very different education system from home but also offers a great opportunity for you to develop you international career potential.

Language

Granted, knowing some Chinese at least in spoken form is advantageous when working in China but the good news is that most of the international companies in China operate in English which makes it easier to operate in the country without knowing Chinese. With that said, the fluency of English language in China greatly varies and majorly depends on the location and generations.

Big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have fairly-used English on signs, public transportation, and menus but even with all that the unpredictability of the locals’ willingness to speak English can be a challenge. When you get out of the big cities, it’s pretty hard to find English speakers, and the language barrier can be such an issue. Chinese people are big on helping foreigners and are usually very friendly and supportive.

Affordability and Salaries

There is this world’s notion that China is cheap which is arguably true. Just a single US dollar can go a long way in China since bus tickets cost as low as 20 cents in Beijing and 50 cents in Shanghai while meals can easily be purchased even on a tight budget.

Historically, salaries in China have always been low majorly contributed by very few regulations on worker’s rights and a surplus of labor. However, the pay scales have begun to rise in every industry in recent years. While China’s paychecks may not be compared to their US counterparts, one can easily live with the wages since food and other commodities can be found at a lower price.

The concept of haggling is one of the major adjustments for expatriates living in China. Most of the big businesses and supermarkets post the prices on the inventory but with the street vendors or family-owned businesses, one negotiates for the price during the time of the purchase. What a hassle especially if you do not know Chinese, but the vendors do their best to win your business by trying out some English or giving you a calculator to state your price.

Visas and Accommodations

There is this stereotype that Chinese houses are the exact epitome of tiny and small which is partially true. However, there are many nice fully furnished apartments for rent which are perfect for foreigners who don’t want to deal with the hassle and money of furnishing a house. With enough roommates, housing can be very affordable for someone just out of college.

To get a visa in China may be difficult depending on the type you are seeking. Students, interns, tourists, workers, and even volunteers all need visas to travel to China. The two most popular visas in China include the work visa which is for individuals employed at a Chinese-owned company or business visa which is for individuals traveling to China for business purposes. Always try to ask your employer or program provider which visa you are going to need way before time.

Visa applications should be very meticulous, and your employer is required to provide several documents. Unfortunately, applications may not be approved even when submitted correctly or you may be given a different visa from the one you requested. Try applying for the visa earlier as you closely work with your employer to possibly get better results. Visas are regulated by the Chinese government and are issued with the utmost discretion of the Chinese consulates.

The Future of the Chinese Workplace for Foreigners

Most of the HR professionals are mainly looking for managers from Asian Countries and less from the West. According to Janine Leung, who is an HR Consultant based in Guangzhou, most of her clients are looking for candidates from Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong who speak English since they are cheaper than their western counterparts and still have the requisite skills. Most hires for the middle-management positions come from Asia since they are not only cheaper but also have client-facing abilities and can still speak a bit of Chinese.

China doesn’t highly value the sales experiences and business developments accumulated in the West since they tend to concentrate more on connections than business strategy. For enterprises in China, business happens on the ground, and it’s all about relationships and cash. This makes it quite challenging, especially for individuals in their early and mid-careers. Hence, individuals with business degrees are better placed in small and mid-western firms whose products are shortly eying the Chinese market.

In China, the more the experience, the more lucrative the job offers become. For instance, for those professionals with vast experience, especially in industrial processes and advanced technology get better opportunities in China than at home This even includes scientists and engineers in the oil and gas industry. There is increasing competition from the local talent, but most of the top multinational companies would prefer hiring expatriates from their home countries. According to Career International’s salary guide for 2013-2014, over half of the CEOs found at the Chinese large-scale listed firms are foreign hires compared to 27% in North America and Europe.

As the wages in China keep rising, most of the students studying abroad have chosen to go back home after school. It’s partially because the top European and US universities are championing exchange programs to enable their students to study and work in China for at least two years so that they can learn the local languages as well as get a landing in the job market.

Even with China’s recent economic woes, its financial capital still looks very attractive, especially for workers who are looking for an exciting assignment overseas. Many foreigners still see China as a golden chance to either make money quickly or further their careers in ways they wouldn’t do at home. Most of the expats don’t find living in China expensive and as one once stated, “I find it more financially comfortable than living in New York or London.”

The biggest challenge that most foreigners face is the housing problem. Most of the agents prove to be unreliable, and the listings are sometimes fake. Location to expats matters hence the rent at a good place is slightly higher. It can be pretty expensive if you are bringing your family over but if you are working at a good company you are entitled to a housing package, and this will help you save a lot. Actually, it doesn’t matter if you are Australian, British, German or French, when you go to China you go to make money hence you can afford your lifestyle. It is interesting how foreigners go to China with the sole purpose of furthering their career only to find out they enjoy life there.

As long as the Chinese and foreign companies based in China keep valuing the foreign technical expertise, the market will demand more extensive experience and language skills than expats in the past. Therefore, for any foreigner desiring to work in China, consider going there early, preferably in your earlier twenties so that you learn more about the language and culture and also when the opportunity costs are slightly low. The bottom line is the growth of the economy is incredibly paramount to the Chinese people hence both international and Chinese businesses constantly crop up.

The Job Map – Understanding the Chinese Job Market
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