Why Can't China Attract Foreign Professionals?

Why Can't China Attract Foreign Professionals?
May 02, 2017 Translated by eChinacities.com

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.

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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Funnily enough other articles suggest that China has no problems attracting foreign professionals. In a 2014 report from the BBC, it pointed out that in 2012 the numbers had increased to more than 240,000 and that number was still rising...and that was just the Chinese mainland. It also pointed out that "[This] represents specialized jobs and highly qualified workers" so these 240,000+ weren't manual labourers or English teachers. Also the article gives no statistics on foreign professionals, simply claiming that they are leaving without providing any proof.

Jul 23, 2017 13:01 Report Abuse



I would love to work in China specially in Bejing , After 5years of experience and work i think that i need a new adventure and new challenges.

Jun 16, 2017 00:39 Report Abuse



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

May 08, 2017 14:18 Report Abuse



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 Report Abuse



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 Report Abuse



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 Report Abuse



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 Report Abuse



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 Report Abuse



I also heard always when i arrived Shanghai 2013 it is so hard to find a job here as a foreigner. Then i recognized ... yes that's right but just for young people. I was 37 years old and started with a german teaching job as well and got a good Project Management job after 8 month in an Austrian company. Also at the same time a Sales Manager Job in a big company. My english and chinese was bad but i had more than 14years working experiance and that is for sure the most important thing here. So, yes i think for young professionals it is really hard to find a job even chinese young professional cannot find a job. But i wish you the best here and be patient. Mike

Jun 02, 2015 18:13 Report Abuse



Always paying the minimum possible to get away with it, no holiday pay or something like 40% in the teaching sector (even in some "real" schools with teach international curricula), relatively high levels of income tax which can not be reclaimed, cumbersome processes for having things reimbursed that should not come out of your own pocket, ehhh what else???

May 06, 2015 15:01 Report Abuse



Yeah, also most professional jobs don't pay much either. I find it far more profitable and less stressful to teach either English or any subject for 20 hours a week, than working any professional 40 hour a week job with 5 days of vacation time a year. It makes no financial sense to work double and make less money.

May 01, 2015 01:20 Report Abuse



why ? because its a sh!t hole

Apr 25, 2015 23:12 Report Abuse



I can say that after reading the article and the comments one would have to agree that China is apparently not able to attract foreign professionals. On the other hand for some strange reason the country is apparently attractive for a lot of foreign wannabees...

Apr 22, 2015 13:59 Report Abuse



People usually remain in their own comfort zone, unless they are risk takers, admire that country they are moving to, or can hardly make a living in their own country. In short, it's not that China cannot attract foreign professionals, but most ppl are unlikely to work abroad. Plus, why would a genuine professional, say, Ivy League + 5 yrs exp with 2 yrs in a management role at a Fortune 500, leave everything behind for somewhere totally new?

Apr 20, 2015 20:03 Report Abuse



Because China could be 1000 times better....unfortunately it isn't and seems to be going backwards.

Apr 15, 2015 04:59 Report Abuse



Yeah but they don't realize or understand that...

Apr 20, 2015 15:27 Report Abuse



Same answer as ----> Why can't mental asylums attract sane patients?

Apr 14, 2015 21:26 Report Abuse



Haha... because they gotta be crazy to stay here.

Apr 14, 2015 21:53 Report Abuse



(Robk) Haha....Just shortened the question. See if this works better?

Apr 14, 2015 22:28 Report Abuse



Hmm let's put this in simple language that even some of the poorly trained wumaos can understand: Foreign talent can work in many places of his or her choice. Some of those places have free high quality public education, top quality healthcare, high wages, clean air, respectable people and safe food. Other places have horrible expensive education, low quality healthcare, untrustworthy and unqualified doctors, low wages, polluted air, too many rude and uncivilized people , and constant food safety problems. So foreign talent has lots of options seeing as he as skills. In which kind of a place would foreign talent like to raise a family?

Apr 14, 2015 17:30 Report Abuse



i wonder how many of the poignant comments here will secretly get cleaned up in about two months, to harmonize this article.

Apr 14, 2015 17:05 Report Abuse



Yeah, I wouldn't doubt that. I don't know why they delete comments with truths. By deleting them, they are proving to everyone that the comments are truths. Otherwise, why would they delete a comment that has no vulgarity... and just being someone's opinion? Oh that's right... the advertisers (and possibly the government). Because they don't want the advertisers... to see what the users think and since some or many of them (advertisers) are Chinese... it may cause issues if the advertisers look beyond the stats and see what foreigners truly think about the inner-working of China.

Apr 14, 2015 21:51 Report Abuse



Most if not all

Jul 06, 2015 18:28 Report Abuse



China will never be able to attract lots of true talents with this model. Unfortunately for China... talented people usually tend to be intelligent people and know the difference between "fog" and "smog". On top of that, MANY Chinese bosses are extremely insecure. They don't want to listen to ideas and advice from subordinates (especially foreigners). Much of what foreigners bring to the table (creativity) is lost or stolen. They would much rather steal or copy... lower the production cost and never jump into new waters. I do UI/UX design for software and applications. All my clients are Westerners. I can't stand to work with Chinese client because many of them say they need your talents but in fact, just want a foreigner around because it gives them face and just having a foreigner on the team, contributes to their success. They want "Yes" men and if you disagree with their ideas (which are usually foolish), be prepared to face their wrath because you made them lose face... very unrewarding and stressful. Everyone is too busy trying to prove they are the boss and not focusing on the tasks at hand. What kind of talented individual would jump at the chance of that? There are some good opportunities but you need a solid "guanxi" network to find them.

Apr 14, 2015 11:58 Report Abuse



Because China's a dump with lazy people who would rather sleep than work.

Apr 14, 2015 11:41 Report Abuse