Job opportunities for foreigners in China


Thanks to the economic growth, the opportunities for foreigners wanting to work in China have increased considerably in the last few years. In 1996 there were 180.000 foreign workers registered in China and the number is rapidly growing.

Teaching English is one of the main job areas for foreigners in China, but there is also a growing demand for expatriate workers with skills in sales, engineering and management amongst others. Most of these jobs are offered by foreign-invested enterprises (as international firms are called), but there is also a growing number of Chinese companies hiring expatriates, even among the State-owned companies. Some of the most interesting job prospects are in the following fields:

Engineering jobs in China

Due to the rapid growth of industrial production, China is in need of more skilled engineers. Career opportunities are expected in architectural, electrical, electronic, mechanical, structural, automotive, fabrication, instrumentation, civil, production, and materials engineering.

IT jobs in China

China’s small and medium-sized technology enterprises offer many employment opportunities in the IT sector, especially in the southern coastal city of Shenzhen, in Shanghai and in Beijing's Zhongguancun Hi-Tech Development Zone. Due to the Chinese government’s commitment to developing the technology industry and the industry’s rapid development, there is a shortage of IT professionals with thousands of job openings in the IT sector and related fields not being filled.

Accounting and finance jobs in China

More and more Chinese businesses require not only accounting skills, but also the gathering, recording and auditing of historical financial information. Due to the growing demand there are plentiful job opportunities in this field.

Sales and marketing jobs in China

Due to the extreme growth of Chinese exports, China offers abundant employment opportunities in international sales and marketing. Sales managers primarily concentrate on handling sales for corporate clients, but they will also be in charge of directing sales teams. Note however, although you may focus on international markets in your position, a thorough understanding of Chinese business customs and etiquette is necessary for success in this industry.

Qualifications for working China

Like everywhere else in the world, companies in China are especially looking for employees with a good mix of hard skills, soft skills and language skills. In a country where cheap labour is abundant, a college degree is a major advantage and most of the expatriates working in China have some form of higher education.

One of the best things you can do to get a head start in China is to learn Chinese. Many foreigners get by without speaking Chinese, but the more you can communicate, the better your chances of finding a job. Speaking Chinese certainly gives you greater options when looking for work, and the best-paying jobs require at least a conversational level of Mandarin.

Why work in China?

Besides the attraction of working in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, many expatriates are also drawn to China because of a personal desire to experience a completely different culture. Be aware, however, that these cultural differences may also add a high level of stress to your work situation and not everyone can cope with working in a cross-cultural environment. The expat “failure rate” for China has been reported to be as high as 70 percent, with many expatriates returning home before their contract expires.

That said, working in China is a huge positive regarding your CV. It demonstrates your willingness to work in a new culture and experience a different market. As China’s importance in the world economy increases, time spent there is a sound investment for the future – at least if you succeed.

Further reading

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