I said way back in December that expats are better off looking for a job in China than they would be back in their home lands. That obviously still holds true as the Huffington Post has just written an article titled Young Americans Going To China For Jobs.
Finding Jobs In China
The article cites the case of Mikala Reasbeck, who could only find a part time job after graduating from college in Boston (counting pills in a chemist at $7 an hour). What did she do? She went to Beijing, knowing that she’d have a better chance of finding a good job in China than she would in the US.
After one week looking for work, she had a full time job teaching English.
That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s lived in China – there are TEFL jobs (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) everywhere in China. What may come as a slight surprise is the salary she managed to get: 14,000 to 16,000 yuan per month. That’s pretty good for a TEFL position. There are definitely such jobs around, but it’s at the higher end of the market.
Mikala has a degree in writing, literature and publishing, but is not a qualified teacher so I’d say she’s been lucky. I’ve had a similar salary and I’m not qualified teacher either, but then I was teaching ICT. I’d been in the computer industry for 13 years when I got the job, including time spent as a trainer.
Mikala’s not alone – the article reports that many young foreigners, faced with bleak prospects in their own countries, are going to China to look for work. Although many are finding jobs such as teaching English, there’s a growing number who are finding professional positions in their favoured industry.
Getting A Visa
One interesting thing that the article pointed out was that China was preferred as a destination over some other countries, such as Russia and the EU, because it was easier to get a visa to work in China:
Employers need government permission to hire foreigners, but authorities promise an answer within 15 working days, compared with a wait of months or longer that might be required in some other countries.
The article does mention that visa restrictions were tightened ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics and while it doesn’t say whether they’ve subsequently been relaxed, it does say that there were more people holding a visa at the end of 2008 than there was at the end of 2007:
Some 217,000 foreigners held work permits at the end of 2008, up from 210,000 a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Thousands more use temporary business visas and go abroad regularly to renew them
That would indicate that visa restrictions have been relaxed.
As it also says, there are many more people who do not have an official work permit (ie Z visa). It’s been that way for years. I don’t know of a foreigner in China who hasn’t worked on business visa (F visa) or even a tourist visa (L visa) at one point or another.
There are always issues related to visas when you have a job in China.
Many companies will give you an F visa to start with, then try to switch you over to a Z visa when you’re there. Sometimes it can be done, sometimes you have leave the country and re-enter (hands up all those who’ve had an unexpected holiday in Hong Kong!).
Last time I checked (2007), the rules were that you had to leave the country to change from an F visa to a Z visa. Of course rules change and local authorities sometime seem to be able to bend them (if the company is asking them in the right way).
Do You Need To Speak Chinese?
I don’t speak Chinese (well only a little), but I’ve never had any problems getting a job in China!
In my experience, Chinese language ability is not required for TEFL positions. I’m sure it would be seen as an added bonus, but 99% of people teaching in China either have very limited Chinese language abilities, or none at all. What they do know is usually only what they’ve picked up while they’ve been living in China – they couldn’t speak Chinese when they first arrived.
Of course, getting a professional job in China may be different, but there are possibilities for people who don’t speak Chinese. The article says:
While many jobs require at least a smattering of Chinese, some employers that need other skills are hiring people who do not speak the language.
It cites Bangyibang.com CEO, Grant Yu, who has said he may employ people who cannot speak Chinese if they have other skills:
I don’t believe language is the biggest obstacle in communication, as long as he or she has a strong learning ability.
It also mentions Feng Li, a partner in a private fund that invests in the mining industry, who is planning to recruit foreign employees to read legal documents and communicate with clients abroad.
Of course, the vast majority of professional job vacancies that I’ve seen do state that Mandarin is required, so I’m unsure how many professional vacancies there are that really don’t require Chinese language skills. It wouldn’t hurt to learn Chinese!
Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, said that there is more competition for foreigners seeking employment in China, from the well educated, English-speaking Chinese youth of today:
You have a lot of Chinese from top universities who are making $500-$600 a month. Making a case that you are much better than they are is very hard.
In response to the issues of not speaking Chinese and the competition from Chinese graduates, I’ll come back to what I said in my December post:
If you have specialist expertise, you’ll be in demand.
China is still a great place to find a job.