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Living and Working in China

Jul 18, 2018


China is home to thousands of expats (over 600,000 according to the last population census in 2010, and 848,500 in 2013 according to the Annual Report on Chinese International Migration) and they recently rated China as one of the most desirable places to work. With China now one of the world’s biggest economies, there are many opportunities for those wishing to enrich their lives by living in such a diverse country with many cultural challenges and pleasures.

Working in China

China’s employment market is vibrant with many multinational companies relocating here, and other companies moving their Asian headquarters here. As sectors like banking and financial services, accounting and legal open up still further, demand for foreign talent will continue – particularly for those who possess relevant language skills.

China’s bustling economy has created a need for highly skilled candidates. High salary inflation and staff turnover rates plague the job market, making it ideal for those with the necessary skills to land a prosperous employment position.  Many foreigners have specialized jobs and are highly qualified, and the majority of them work for foreign-owned companies rather than one hundred percent Chinese owned firms. Around eighty-five percent of employed expats work for international companies, with the largest in sales and marketing, followed by banking and financial services, and engineering.

Is it easy for expats to find employment in China?  Local candidates that are bilingual and have experience with multi-national corporations are preferred. Next among the preferred are Chinese “returnees” meaning those Chinese that have worked abroad.  For the expat, the ideal candidate will have the right mix of technical experience, related skills and bilingual abilities.

Skills in demand are technical skills, including both IT and complex manufacturing processes, financial skills 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 the 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.

More and more however, companies are localizing and not offering housing packages, assistance with school fees, transportation benefits and so forth.

Which type of companies recruit international candidates? According to, Foreign-invested enterprises (as international firms are called) employ about eighty-five percent of the expatriate workforces. Approximately forty percent of the expat jobs in China are in sales and marketing, twenty percent in engineering, ten percent in management (including accounting and finance), and IT jobs make up about five percent.

Living in China

China has a rich and diverse cultural history. The food, its people, its beauty is to be appreciated and enjoyed. However, like all cultures, China has a few pitfalls. These can be managed quite nicely with a little preparation.

In some of the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, pollution and congested traffic can be quite bothersome on some days. While the Chinese government is taking many steps to combat these problems, there are some things you can do on your own.

As for the pollution, careful monitoring of the AQI index is a must. On days that it is high, there are many good quality masks that one can purchase and wear to filter the air being breathed in. There are also many good quality air filters one can purchase for the home to insure the quality of air where you live. This is not to say this is a constant problem…there are many, many “good” air days in China.

Since China is the most populated country in the world, and in addition to being one of the quickest growing economies in the world, everyone wants to own a vehicle. Many are able to do so. But with this luxury, there are many traffic problems. The astute foreigner quickly learns the best way to travel around the crowded cities. Public transportation is often the best option as China is geared to accommodate the most people in the quickest way possible and getting them around the cities is a top priority with transportation officials. Public transportation is quite good in China. Your best bet is to combine your travel preferences with the time you need to travel. Another good thing is to plan to live near your work and social venues. This alone can make living in China much more pleasurable.

Living in such a highly populated area can be a risk health wise.  One needs to take precautions when dining. Avoiding the street food stalls is a must as they lack basic sanitation such as running water. Wearing a mask when immersed in a mass of humanity is not only good for filtering air against pollution; it can filter the air from others’ germs. Other basic precautions are quite easily managed such as carrying hand sanitizer as soap and water is not always available in public areas in China. Hands transmit germs quickly, so keep you hands clean!

As mentioned earlier, China is the most populated country on earth.  That is not a bad thing; the Chinese people are very friendly and outgoing to foreigners. They will go out of their way to help you when you need it. They love trying out their language skills and often jump at the opportunity to help a foreigner so they can practice their English.

The Chinese are lovely people who are proud of their history and culture and love to portray themselves in the best light possible. Take advantage of this and enjoy China with all it has to offer!

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