5 Industries that Want Expat Workers in China

5 Industries that Want Expat Workers in China
Mar 13, 2024 By Louise Levicky , eChinacities.com

There’s been a lot of chat of late about the demise of expat jobs in China. Locals who have studied and worked abroad arguably bring more to the table in terms of language skills and cultural competence than any outsider could hope to offer. That said, there’s still a thriving job market in China for qualified expats that can’t be so easily replaced by talented Chinese applicants. Here we take a look at five industries that want expat workers in China.

industries that want expat workers in China
Source: Chris Bull

Language teaching

While there has been a crackdown on tutoring services and talk about the decreasing importance of English education in China, in reality, foreign English teachers are still a sought-after commodity here. These days, you’ll need a degree, some kind of teaching qualification and some experience in order to get a visa to teach in China, but there are plenty of jobs out there if you fulfill the criteria.

Native English teachers remain at the forefront of the demand, but there is also work for teachers of other languages, such as French, Spanish, German and Russian. And while the majority of expats teach children, adult learners also require lessons in both a professional and casual capacity.

Technical specializations

As tends to be the case in most countries, the job market in China varies depending on where exactly you are based. In big manufacturing hubs like Shenzhen and Guangzhou and some of the smaller cities surrounding Shanghai and Beijing, there's high demand for engineering graduates who can bring foreign expertise to local companies.

The ability to speak Mandarin is often not a requirement for foreigners with technical specializations, although this is starting to change as more locals return from studying and working abroad. It’s no secret that strong Chinese skills will land you jobs that wouldn’t be open to you otherwise, but — lucky for you — many Chinese companies still think they can get ahead simply by hiring expats. Many more believe their foreign clients will respond better to foreign employees.

Writing, editing and translation

The marketing, editing and writing industries still require foreigners with native English skills. While AI writing services are pretty mind-blowing these days and are being increasingly used by companies with low budgets, those intent on producing quality content still require real life writers and editors.

Expats who have a good grasp of Mandarin will also continue to be in demand for work that requires quality translations. While some companies may ask for a degree in translation or communications, many are open to native speakers of foreign languages with basic Mandarin reading skills. Some multinational companies may even help you complete translation training while in China — a boon for your CV.

The food and beverage industry

Big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have a plethora of Western dining options, many of which do a roaring trade with both expats and locals. Foreigners will find there’s plenty of jobs for mixologists, chefs and restaurant managers in these big cities.

There’s also plenty of untapped opportunity for those thinking of setting up their own F&B outlet in many smaller Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Rents are cheaper and there’s much less competition, but local Chinese are still curious about Western cuisine. While starting and running a business in China represents a significant time and financial commitment, it can also be extremely fulfilling – not to mention a good money-making enterprise. Savvy foreigners with experience in the sector and good Chinese connections will find there are opportunities to be seized.

Top-level management

For foreigners working at the senior management level, a move to China can still be a real money spinner. Senior executives hired on so-called “expat packages” often rake in extremely high salaries while benefiting from a range of generous extras, including housing, private health insurance, a car and a driver and private education for their kids. Although these positions are the true holy grail of expat jobs, many top multinationals will continue to hire expat C-Suite executives in China because they feel more comfortable working with people from their home country. 

In conclusion, there’s no doubt that the need for foreign generalists in China is diminishing and that expats looking to work here require more than just soft skills and a foreign face. That said, if you find yourself in the right pace with the right skillset, you’re likely to find the opportunities in China at least rival and often surpass what you can expect in your home country. What’s more, many international companies are increasingly on the lookout for people with work experience in China and Mandarin skills as they seek to do business with the Middle Kingdom. A successful stint in China, therefore, can work for you at home and away.

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