6 Things that Affect Employment Prospects and Salary in China

6 Things that Affect Employment Prospects and Salary in China
Feb 19, 2019 By Alistair Baker-Brian , eChinacities.com

As is most likely the case in your home country, various factors can affect your employment prospects and salary in China. Let's take a look at what I consider to be the top six indicators and how you can increase your chances of landing a well paid gig in the Middle Kingdom.

1. Visa categories

Visas are the be all and end all of working legally here, and your eligibility for a particular visa category is a significant factor when it comes to job opportunities and salary in China. The categories are ranked A, B and C and work as follows;

Visas for category C foreigners are rarely issued, as this is for unskilled manual workers and China already has enough of those within its own population. Category B is the most common visa category for foreigners working in China, typically covering jobs that require a bachelor’s degree such as teaching, copywriting and marketing. Category A covers “high-level experts”, such as international prize winners and those with PhDs.

It’s worth familiarising yourself with where exactly you fit within the different categories. Read this to see how many points you would score based on your attributes, but don’t be completely put off if you come out a C. The rules are not set in stone and if an employer likes you, they can likely make it work.

2. Age

Officially, class B and C visas are limited to those aged 60 and under. Shanghai has, however, been an exception since 2016, allowing expats over 60 to work in the city.

In addition to visa issues, many employers may not consider older people for employment for a variety of other reasons. One of those reasons is a concern (and of course this is a generalisation) that an older person may be less able than a young person to adapt to a different country and culture.

However, older job seekers are more likely to command higher salaries in China. Like in many countries, young people with little work experience may arrive here to find they’re paid a lower salary compared to someone older with more years under their belt.

3. Education

Education is also a factor in the visa categories. The vast majority of jobs for expats in China require a BA degree, while those with masters qualifications and above should be able to expect more opportunities and higher salaries.

A search on the eChinacities.com jobs page suggests that this is particularly true in the education sector, with some employers offering salaries as high as RMB 30,000 (USD 4,360) per month to those with an MA.

4. Language

Or more specifically, language skills. Bonus points can be gained in the visa rankings for those who take the HSK, the official Mandarin Chinese proficiency assessment for mainland China. The higher your level, the more category points you’ll receive and the better your employment and salary prospects will be.

While many ESL jobs are advertised as “native English speakers only”, having worked at an English training school with Russians, Filipinos, Romanians and other nationalities, it appears to me that this “rule” is sometimes applied flexibly.

Beyond ESL, other industries in China require speakers of other foreign languages. My current home city of Shenzhen has earned the nickname “Silicon Valley of China” due to the number of tech start-ups here. As many of them export products to France, Germany, Spain, Japan and elsewhere, speakers of a variety of languages are required to do sales, marketing and more.

In short, the greater your language skills, the better your job and salary prospects will be in China.

5. Experience

Officially, only those with at least two years of work experience in a relevant industry are eligible to work in China.

When I first applied for a job to teach English in Guangzhou, I was told needed two years teaching experience. The recruiter later told me, however, that although this was the official rule, the company could get around this if I attended a two-week training course after arriving in China. As things worked out, I eventually got the job.

Experience certainly helps your salary and job prospects in China. However, as with other factors, it doesn’t count for everything.

6. Gender

Gender, unfortunately, is an unofficial consideration for some employers in China. Teaching jobs in particular sometimes request that only female applicants apply, while some Chinese employers, especially in tech and government sectors, have been slammed for advertising for male-only candidates.

It is also widely known that married women in their early thirties find it more difficult to get jobs in China. Many employers see them as likely to get pregnant in the near future and therefore consider them not worth the cost of employing.

In my experience, however, workplaces in China tend to be relatively gender balanced. Even the education sector, a traditionally female-dominated industry in my home country, has its fair share of male employees.

A lot of the factors discussed here are not unique to China, and although you might find it more difficult to teach English if you’re not a native speaker, or tough to get a higher salary without years of work experience, it’s important not to get too hung up on arbitrary factors. From the non-native ESL teacher to the green-handed copywriter, the scope of expat job opportunities and salaries in China may surprise you.

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Keywords: Salary in China employment prospects and salary in China


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It depends which sector that you are applying. In ESL, skin color still matters.

Sep 17, 2020 10:26 Report Abuse



Skin color unfortunately also means a lot here.

Mar 24, 2019 18:43 Report Abuse



What if the applicant has only Trade Test 1,2 and 3 as its degree. Is he still qualified to work as an engineer in china?

Mar 02, 2019 05:33 Report Abuse



amazing how every 3 months someone comes on here and writes these kinds of articles that seem to paint some kind of rosy picture about working in China as a foreigner. Nearly every time, these articles are written by ESL teachers who seem to think what they do or experience is how everything happens in China. This article appears to be written by someone who is firstly stating the obvious concerning visas whilst totally missing the facts that are concerned with getting one nowadays. A case of look at me "I work in China, aren't I great?" "If I can do it so can you", "China is such a wonderful place to live and work". Quite a lot of things stated are incorrect. For instance if a teacher has a MA, it would only be the best of the best International schools that MIGHT pay more based on this qualification. It is not a given. The claim that females in theif 30s is also incorrect. It is partially correct concerning the risk factor that goes with hiring a female who is single or does not have a kid but being over 30 does not come into it. The factor is that under Chinese law, a female is entitled to 3 months paid leave which is the reason for that kind of bias towards female applicants. Think it is quite funny as well how China gives itself its cities and places nicknames as some kind of answer to the western world. This is not a dig at the write of this article who did not make it up but things like Hainan: 'China's Hawaii' and Shenzhen: 'China's Silicon Valley' are just lame and pretentious. What people who write these articles should do is stop playing the numbers game (how many years in China) and realise that the employment options in China for foreigners HAS changed for the worse, making it harder for the employee and much more control for the employer. The farcical situation where one has to translate many documents into Chinese and send them to an employer they have never set eyes on - just to be considered for employment is proof of that. So the author has got a teaching job in Guangdong - congratulations pal. New for you pal, the good decade has passed for people who want to go to China and do what you do. Now it is all snobbery and pretentious people who - as far as ESL goes - basically clapping monkeys deluxe.

Feb 19, 2019 22:14 Report Abuse



Well, that's a burn if I ever saw one.

Feb 23, 2019 16:25 Report Abuse




Mar 24, 2019 18:44 Report Abuse