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Why Can't China Attract Foreign Professionals?

May 02, 2017 Translated by Comments (10)     Add your comment Newsletter

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Editor's Note: This translated article discusses the difficulties that Chinese and Western companies in China face attracting foreign talent. The author describes a situation that seems like a lose-lose for foreigners and companies. Companies in China now have high expectations for foreign professionals, so young professionals have trouble finding positions. However, at the same time, most experienced professionals do not want to move to China. By holding out for perfect candidates, companies do not fill their positions, while still blocking younger candidates from the market.

China has a rapidly developing economy, but Chinese and international companies in China often have trouble attracting foreign talent. Why are foreign professionals often unwilling to come work in China? The professional job market in China is difficult for the young and inexperienced, while more experienced foreigners are hesitant to move to China because of pollution and other issues.

China foreign professionals

1) Ideal Jobs are Hard to Find

With an increased number of foreigners in China, it is difficult for young expats to find an ideal job. According to foreign media reports, about 65% of jobs for foreigners in China are English teaching positions, therefore it is hard for young people to find a professional position. Fluency in Mandarin has also become a prerequisite for foreign professionals in China, rather than just a bonus, unless they are in a highly specialized industry. Hong Kong's Hudson Recruitment's Aruna Alimchandani said in a 2013 interview that Hong Kong has become a springboard into the Mainland Chinese job market, where 80% of jobs now require Mandarin or Cantonese speaking abilities.

In addition, more and more Chinese students are heading overseas to study abroad. They master multiple languages and come home with an international vision of China. The students that choose to return home from China become stiff competition for foreigners looking for professional work. Furthermore, professional jobs in China now require years or work experience or other other overseas experience, making it difficult for foreign youth to get hired.

2) Pay is Lower than Expected

The 2014 China International Talent Exchange Research and Department Cooperation issued a report that said that foreign professionals name salary as an important factor for working in China. Out of many factors including development of the industry and place of employment, foreign professionals said that salary was most important.

However, when foreigners come to China, they are often paid much less than they expect to be. This is because high-paying professional jobs are difficult for foreigners to find. Foreigners come to China intending to work in a professional field, but end up teaching English. In 2012, foreign media published a story on an American named Max who studied environmental engineering at the University of Vermont. He could not find a job in his field in China, and had to settle for teaching English in a kindergarten for 10,000 Yuan per month. He ended up having to send most of his wages home to pay off his student loans.

Chinese students returning home from overseas do not expect high wages. In 2014, the Ministry of Education released a report showing that more than 80% of returned overseas students make less than 10,000 Yuan per month.

In China today, it is difficult for foreigners to get the high-paying job that they expect, and may turn many off from the idea of living in China.

3) Poor Living Conditions

In 2012, long-term Chinese resident Mark Kitto published an article in the UK's Prospect Magazine titled, “You'll Never Be Chinese: Why I'm Leaving the Country I Loved.” Kitto had a Chinese wife and two children, but decided to move his family away from China. His article sparked a fierce online debate. Kitto's main reason for leaving was that he found it difficult to assimilate into Chinese society. On the other hand, the cultural and institutional differences between China and the West is what attracts many foreigners to China in the first place.

In addition, environmental issues have made China less attractive to foreigners. Foreigners deciding to leave China because of pollution is not uncommon, and many foreigners now think twice about coming to work in China because of the pollution. Former Nokia senior vice president Dirk Meyer said in a 2014 interview that he had decided to leave Beijing at the end of the term because of the pollution. He also said that when Nokia recently tried to recruit a new R&D specialist 17 candidates all refused to move to Beijing, 15 because of the pollution.

Source: QQ News

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Keywords: China job market China foreign professionals

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10 Comments ( Add your comment )


I gave up the professional route in China. The pay was low for the long hours. Teaching paid so much more for working about 10 hours a week. China!

May 02, 2017 11:30

People in China can't be so obtuse they don't own mirrors. To answer the question in the headline, China, just look in that mirror. That's the reason!

May 02, 2017 20:19

What about poor work ethics?

May 03, 2017 07:08

"Chinese students go abroad and come back mastering multiple languages." Joke of the century. I've seen the students who come back. I haven't seen them master anything except their parents bank accounts. "Provide stiff competition to young foreigners" Again, must be joking. I would describe today's working generation as many things, but "competent" definitely isn't on that list.

May 03, 2017 08:09

"Chinese students go abroad and come back mastering multiple languages." Joke of the century. I've seen the students who come back. I haven't seen them master anything except their parents bank accounts. "Provide stiff competition to young foreigners" Again, must be joking. I would describe today's working generation as many things, but "competent" definitely isn't on that list. Especially the ones who couldn't hack it in another country that actually follows regulations.

May 03, 2017 08:12

Looks like a fairly Chinese article. The first given reason "foreigners" are not coming is that they're not qualified enough, and Chinese are better (gotta get that nationalism in there). At least they acknowledge that there are problems. Mentioning Kitto's article is a baby step towards actually talking about the entrenched racism and xenophobia in Chinese culture. Pollution is still a safe enough topic to talk about, since there's no way they can keep denying it. I didn't expect them to mention the lying, cheating, and other unethical business practices that are prevalent in Chinese businesses.

May 03, 2017 08:19

Why are mostly young foreigners here and the older ones left? The answer is so simple... ones they have a family (kids) they get the fuck out of here because it is so unhealthy that you must worry your kid will not even survive the first 10 years. Other than that, I am in a high position and love working here, mainly because I am the boss and dont have to take the bullshit that others do. Even though I earn a lot and love my job and have more nice things than back home, I still want to go back, because it is just not good for my kid here + the people are mentally ill here

May 03, 2017 09:05

Most of the people who go to work in China are the young people. They have no intention of staying in China. They stay for a couple months to a couple years to experience another country; not to retire there. The idea is to get some experience that will help them get a job (back home-not in China). For the rest it is usually a case of getting married and having extra income for awhile, then moving out of China.

May 04, 2017 00:30

I will give my own version and summary why there aren't as many foreign professionals in China: - foreigners, previously believed China was a mysterious country with a long history... instead they found out most of the history was destroyed and the most mysterious thing about China is the ridiculous face concept and various scams. - the novelty of hiring foreigners, simply for their face, wore off and Chinese that studied abroad became a cheaper and more controllable option - cost of living is rising steadily, yet salary raises are not... - poor manners, alienation of foreigners (especially in the media), lack of regard for the environment by the locals, lack of general education and social etiquette - POLLUTION ---

May 04, 2017 12:52

Shall we say, these are the tip of the iceberg.

May 08, 2017 14:18

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