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Work in China

Work in China: Essential facts on employment opportunities for expats

Work in China
World's biggest economy

China is now the world’s biggest economy – and with the spotlight firmly on this emerging superpower, it’s no surprise that China’s estimated 7,000 international expatriates recently ranked China as the best overall destination, ahead of Germany and Singapore (based on answers that covered employment packages and raising children abroad).

With many multinational companies relocating to China, and other companies moving their Asian headquarters there, the Chinese employment market remains buoyant. And as sectors like banking and financial services, accounting and legal open up still further, demand for foreign talent will continue – particularly for those with the relevant language skills.

Work in China: Economy and job market

  • What is the current local job market situation?

    China’s booming economy has made it one of the most candidate-short markets in Asia, as it also faces high salary inflation and staff turnover rates.

    Many foreign workers have specialized jobs and are highly qualified, and most work for foreign companies rather than 100 per cent Chinese-owned firms.

    Around 85 per cent of expats with a job in China work for international companies, with the largest proportion in sales and marketing, followed by banking and financial services and engineering.

  • Which job functions and industries are the most in demand?

    At present, professional services is the sector showing the strongest hiring intentions, with a net 71.4 per cent of employers intending to increase headcount in the first half of 2015.

    Experts in the banking and financial services industry also continue to be in demand, as China opens up this sector to foreign companies.

    The consumer sector is still going strong and there is significant demand for advertising and marketing professionals who can directly drive revenue, with category managers, product developers and distribution managers highly sought after.


  • How easy is it for international candidates to find employment?

    The first preference for companies is to recruit local candidates who are bilingual and who have experience of working in multinational corporations (MNCs). The second choice is for Chinese ‘returnees’ who are ethnic Chinese with experience of working abroad.

    Yet for certain niches, skill sets and some top-level management positions, there can be openings for expatriate staff. To employers, the ideal expatriate worker would have the right mix of technical experience, related skills and bilingual abilities.

    Skills in demand include technical skills (including both IT and complex manufacturing processes), financial skills (including CPA credentials and expertise with generally accepted accounting principles), international marketing experience, financial managers who are familiar with WTO rules, and experienced lawyers who are experts in international trade law.

    Bilingual foreigners with experience of working in China are considered for many managerial roles – but increasingly they are being offered local packages, which may include some benefits such as housing or tax incentives.

    Increasingly, however, companies are localizing and not offering housing packages and assistance with school fees.

  • Which types of companies recruit international candidates?

    Foreign-invested enterprises (as international firms are called) employ about 85 per cent of the expatriate workforce. Approximately 40 per cent of the expat jobs in China are in sales and marketing, 20 per cent in engineering, 10 per cent in management (including accounting and finance), and IT jobs make up about 5 per cent.

    Only a small percentage of expatriates work for Chinese companies – primarily as engineers or managers in high-tech manufacturing firms.

  • What language skills are required?

    Fluency in written and spoken English is a necessity, and a certain level of Mandarin is an advantage. The best-paying jobs in China generally require the ability to speak Mandarin. Positions that require fluent spoken and written Mandarin tend to pay more than the same job without the language requirement.

Work in China: Housing and accommodation

In major cities, there are many options catering to all budgets. However, real estate prices (both for rental and purchase) have been steadily rising in China’s major cities.

Most apartments are fully furnished, although leaseholders can often choose what furniture they would like to keep and what they would like to have replaced. Kitchen appliances are usually included. Serviced apartments may include extra services, such as a concierge service, fitness center and maid services.

When you are looking for a place to rent, it can be helpful to find a Chinese contact person (such as an HR staff member of your company, a personal friend, or a trusted real estate agent) to help you. Ask them to talk to a landlord, approve a rental agreement, or look at houses on your behalf before you arrive.

Work in China: Next steps

If you’re looking for work in China, you can search for and apply for jobs on our website.

As one of China’s leading recruiters, we have new and exciting roles becoming available all the time. We’re always keen to match quality candidates with these roles – so send us your CV to ensure you don’t miss out on the latest opportunities. We’ll add your details to our database and be in touch to discuss suitable roles as they become available.

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Hudson is a talent solutions company. We help transform the workplace and unleash the full potential of organizations and individuals. Our expert team and assessment tools provide you with unique insights and services that help you maximize your success. Across APAC, we deliver a range of recruitment and talent management solutions to get you and your business where you want to be.