China increasingly attractive to foreign professionals

12/11/17

Permalink 04:01:49 pm, by dacare, 1710 words, 172 views   English (US)
Categories: News of China

China increasingly attractive to foreign professionals

It took Nikita Ermakov, a second-year Russian student at Peking University's Yenching Academy, four months of job hunting and many interviews before he finally got an offer from the HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate on the Fortune 500 list. He is currently negotiating the offer with them, and hopefully, he will start the job after graduation.

Ermakov, 25, got his bachelor's degree at a university in South Korea and a master's in Russia before coming to China. He has three years of work experience from his time in South Korea and Russia and can speak four languages: English, Korean, Russian and Chinese.

"China has become the new U.S., a new land of opportunities," he said. "The U.S. is a country of immigrants, but it is already a developed country. With President Trump's new policies, the country has become stricter with visa and immigration regulations. China is still developing; it has a huge market."

Ermakov is just one of many foreign talents who choose to come to China for career development.

According to the HSBC's 2017 Expat Explorer Global Report in October, a move to China offers expats numerous career and income advantages.

The report showed that China, as one of the world's economic powerhouses, now comes in second in HSBC's global rankings for career progression. A total of 70 percent of the 27,500 expats surveyed said the Chinese mainland offers strong job prospects compared with only 54 percent globally and 48 percent in Eastern Asia, a 16 percent increase over last year's figures.

Half of the surveyed expats on the Chinese mainland said they have more opportunities to acquire new skills here than at home, and they earn significantly more than the average expat - typically around $171,000 annually compared with $100,000 globally and $115,000 regionally, according to the report.

Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), said China is now involved in "global talent circulation."

"There is a new trend in which more foreign talents will go to China to develop their career in the next decade or two. China's international talent competitiveness is growing," he said.

Hot areas for foreign professionals

According to the HSBC report, the top three employment sectors are the education, service, and financial services sectors, which account for 31, 17 and 9 percent of the employment market respectively. The service industry includes hospitality, travel and leisure, tourism and customer service.

Ermakov thinks that foreigners, especially recent graduates and young specialists, face fierce competition from Chinese professionals. But as the HSBC report showed, the education, services and finance industries require the highest level of qualifications, so foreign talents can still compete with domestic specialists.

"In spite of the fact that foreigners have lower language skills, lack connections and have a limited knowledge of the market, they have comparative advantages: international networking experience, mobility, knowledge of specific business cultures, foreign languages or business English, special areas of expertise and so on," he said.

Eric Tarchoune, founder and managing director of the Dragonfly Group, an HR consulting firm in China, said foreigners who have competencies in big data, artificial intelligence, digital marketing, research and development, knowledge management, brand management, and smart data analysis are in greater demand. They have years of work experience and can bring innovative and different ways of working to their job in China, he explained.

Hays, a British recruitment company with offices in China, said the industries on the Chinese mainland that offer good job prospects for foreigners include science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the Internet, e-commerce and digital technology, and medical care in its December 5 release on the top 10 recruiting tendencies on the Chinese mainland in 2018.

"Candidates with well-developed soft skills and technical or product knowledge in their area of expertise are also in high demand for these roles and are well positioned to command the most attractive remuneration packages in the coming months," said Simon Lance, managing director of Hays China.

Attracting high-end talent

National initiatives such as the Belt and Road initiative and national technology projects are attracting more high-end foreign professionals.

Jurriaan Meyer, a 52-year-old man from the Netherlands, recently resigned from his post as Asia Pacific director at an international software company in Beijing to work as the general manager of Shandong SRCC Rail Transit Technology, a new Jinan-based company that does innovative propulsion systems for both the local and international markets. Meyer has been in China for over 15 years.

"This project is part of the Belt and Road initiative and is supported by the governments of Shandong and the Netherlands," said Meyer. "Jinan wants to build a local rail industry, and SRCC will be one of the first companies to contribute to this plan with local assembly facilities. If we succeed, this project could truly be the crown of my career in China."

A new work permit system was implemented across China on April 1. Under the new system, foreigners fall into the categories of A, B or C based on their educational background, qualifications and work experience. The policy, which was launched by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, shows that China wants more high- and mid-level foreign talents.

According to Shanghai-based newspaper Jiefang Daily, Ben Feringa, the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry and Kurt W├╝thrich, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in chemistry, are expected to obtain a Chinese green card in December.

Meyer also applied for a Chinese permanent residence card last year, which is expected to be granted to him in 2018.

"I think China is right to attract foreign talent while focusing on high quality," said Meyer.

Meyer thinks that compared with big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, where the living costs are becoming excruciatingly expensive, second- and third-tier cities also offer a lot of opportunities these days.

"Facilities in China are very good these days. The transportation infrastructure is awesome, and the Chinese people and companies are usually very supportive and go to great lengths to accommodate foreign talent," he said.

A new generation of expats

Madeleine, a 21-year-old woman from Indonesia, works as an event manager for jingjobs.com, a Beijing-based startup recruitment company.

She came to Beijing in 2013 and studied marketing for four years at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE). She also does public relations for Global Foundation of Young Entrepreneurs (GFYE) at UIBE.

"Startup environments attract me a lot, as they are very challenging and give me the opportunity to learn every single day," said Madeleine.

She started building her career here in 2016 by taking different internships and part-time jobs and has built her network from hundreds to thousands within a year.

Running events with NGOs and big job fairs, and meeting inspiring people are just some of her memorable experiences so far.

Madeleine thinks there is a bright future for bilingual professionals who speak Chinese and are passionate about China, its fast economic growth, growing advanced technology and diversity.

"Nowadays, employers and companies are hiring younger professionals because they're known to be very tech savvy, entrepreneurial, adventurous and very talented overall," she said.

Meyer agrees.

"I think a new generation of expats is coming who are younger and better prepared for China. Most speak Chinese, which is a great development," said Meyer, who passed HSK 5.

He explained that the new generation of candidates compromises millennials, those who are born after 1990, and Generation X or those who are born after 2000. They are coming to China to study and then work. They learn Chinese at an early age and mix with the younger generation in China, he said.

"They are very well integrated into the culture and business environment and are of great value to China and their home countries," he said.

"China is making a smart move by inviting many young people from abroad to study in China. This helps groom a pool of future 'ambassadors for China' who can help develop understanding and cooperation to the benefit of China and its counterparts abroad."

How to grasp the opportunities?

Meyer finds that after coming to China to work, he has learned much more and is earning more as well.

He said that while China is developing fast and Chinese graduates and professionals are catching up quickly, some high-level foreign workers are still sought after for their unique combination of academic, professional and soft skills and language abilities.

"Soft skills and foreign languages are a weak spot for some Chinese candidates, particularly those outside of the big cities, so there are opportunities for those who can help bridge the gap between China and the world," he said.

He thinks that to be successful in China, one needs many skills, such as in-depth experience in their related field of work.

He said recent graduates from abroad would have a hard time finding a job in China, as many graduates from China or Chinese returning from overseas are stiff competition.

Intercultural skills are also needed. Meyer said an excellent command of the Chinese language and an understanding of the business culture must be brought to the table. Flexibility and an innovative mind comprise the third and final essential factor.

"China will develop more and more, and the labor market will be even more competitive even for the most skilled talent from abroad. However, some very good ones will always be required and welcome if only to help China succeed on the world stage, away from the familiar home markets in China," he said.

Nicolas Fusier, operations director of Dragonfly Group, said more and more Chinese companies that are going global recruit foreigners to develop in the North American and European markets. He said for these specific jobs, it's definitely an advantage to be a foreigner because they know the culture and have their network.

However, Madeleine thinks that despite the good prospects, getting a work visa still poses a challenge.

"Be ready for the long process of applying for a work visa. It is sad because I have seen and met hundreds of young talent who did not get the work visa but are actually very enthusiastic and passionate," she said.

Fusier sees things differently.

"It takes time to get a visa, but I think the most important thing when it comes to attracting high-quality foreign talent is to offer them interesting and innovating challenges while working here in China," he said.

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