Getting a job in China: What to know

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In one of the world’s fastest growing economies, never has there been a greater need for reliable, trustworthy, up to date and specified knowledge to allow expats to achieve their goals in the country. For a foreigner, getting a job in China has a gained a lot more hurdles over the years. Once, being an expat was a glorious package, now foreigners must compete against an increasing field of domestic talent. Nevertheless, it is certainly not difficult if you know what you’re looking for and what you will need. Our guide here explains some of the fundamental steps you should take if you want access to the Chinese job market. It’s time to pay attention if you want to succeed.

 

A changing society, a changing workforce

China is becoming one of the world’s most rapidly educated countries. Every year millions and millions of students progress from the “gaokao” high school examinations into University, with thousands of educational institutions spanning the towns, cities and provinces. Millions more head abroad to study in prestigious universities in Europe, North America and beyond. As a result of this monumental social change, China faces the challenge of accommodating millions of graduates into a job market which can barely keep up. An industrial economy with an increasingly educated, white collar population. The result is a growing rate of graduate unemployment. How have the government responded to this?

Chinese job seekers visit a job fair in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. Pic: AP.
Chinese job seekers visit a job fair in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality. Pic: AP.

Tougher visa requirements

As a result of this rapid social change, no longer is the possession of a University degree enough for a foreigner to merit a position in China on its own. Chinese visa rules no longer permit this. As a foreigner candidate for employment in China, the burden is now placed upon you to demonstrably prove that your skills and thus experiences, are worthy of exceeding that of locals to make your position necessary. This creates two requirements, that in applying for a job in China you come equipped with two years worth of formal work experience, or certification which exceeds the norm. For example, if you are applying for an English teaching position, if you possess a valid TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate, then you are eligible to obtain a working visa. If not, then you must prove that you have the valid experience.

 

Two years of Relevant work experience

Simply finding a suitable job in China is not enough. As well as the requirement to have two years of work experience since graduation, the work experience must be relevant to the responsibilities of your future job in China.

For example, if you have taught English for the last two years since graduation and wish to change to an area requiring a whole new skill set, you will likely come into difficulties because essentially your experience would still be that of a newcomer. You need to have demonstrable experience. The Chinese visa system takes this into account when vetting applications for work permits. Many companies in China are not aware of this rule (so you might want to inform them prior receiving a new offer).

If you are in a situation where your time since graduation, or your work experience, is not long enough, you will most likely have difficulty when it comes to your visa application. However, we have encountered some successful cases for foreign talents in certain industries, for people who are exceptional in some way.

 

No experience or necessary qualifications, then what do you do?

If you don’t meet any of the criteria above, then getting a legitimate job in China will be extremely challenging. But this does not mean your China dream is over. In this situation, you should start looking at long term internships available with given companies. There are plenty of advertisements to be found. Such companies will allow you to intern in China under a business/educational or cultural exchanges visa. Although they cannot offer you a salary, many of them will stipulate your living costs. These opportunities provide a good way to build guanxi networks for the future, as well as iron out chances for full time employment once you fit the requirement. For the newly graduated student who cannot get an official graduate position, we recommend this; unless of course, you choose to go down the teaching English route.

 

Conclusions: Plan ahead for China employment

If you do not know anything about the job market and workforce of the country you aspire to live in, then you probably won’t get very far. Never has this been more the case with China. It is a country that is growing, adapting and ever changing to an equally rapid shift in needs. It is a world of opportunity, but only for those who are ready and equipped to benefit from it. Getting a job in China is becoming more challenging. A more competitive job market now means that the position of “expats”, once very easily obtained, is being weakened. You need to be qualified and you need to be experienced. Plan your China dream out well.