Global Recession Not Affecting Expat Jobs In China

With global markets in recession, jobs are disappearing in most countries. This is also true in China, where factories have been closed and workers laid off – but it does not appear to be affecting expats, who can still find a job in China.

The China Daily recently reported that China is still a land of opportunity for expats, saying:

While many firms around the world are laying off staff, or about to, recruitment experts say Chinese firms are actually hiring more expats.

The China Daily article singles out the pharmaceutical, high-tech and research & development industries as those where expats “can write their own check”. If you have specialist expertise, you’ll be in demand. The exception appears to be the property and real estate industries. While companies are tightening up and dropping dead wood”, they are still hiring specialists.

Expats Better Off Looking For A Job In China

One message that comes through in the article is that expatriates are probably better off in China than they would be if they returned home. Jill Malila, Asia market development leader at Mercer China said:

Job opportunities on this side of the world are greater than in North America or Europe, so expatriates will have greater opportunities here than in their home country”.

I’d add that you’ll also have less competition. At home, you’ll find a shrinking job market with a bigger pool of competitors (increasing as people get laid off).

I’d also add that the cost of living in China is very favourable. If you’re having trouble finding a job, your savings will go further if you’re living in China than they would if you went home (at least in most cases).

Adjusting Remuneration Expectations

Although there are jobs for people with specialist expertise, remuneration may not be as good as it has been in the past. This seems to contradict the ‘they can write their own check’ statement, but it makes sense, remembering that remuneration was extremely lucrative in the past.

Kelly Qian of The Jace-Kelly says many expats are accepting a more localized compensation scheme:

They are being put on a local plus package. If you are a local plus, the company will probably help you bear some of your tax, or consider giving you some housing allowance”.

Whereas for real expatriate hiring, they normally help you equalize tax to your hometown, give you housing and take care of your kids’ education, and most of the time the whole family will be entitled to international benefits.”

Olly Riches, China manager at Michael Page adds:

People are being less demanding about fringe benefits and salary within reason,” he says. Because expats know about localization and what’s going on elsewhere in the world, they are being more flexible.”

My reading of the situation is that true experts are likely to still get a great deal, but ‘tier 2’ expatriates will have to make do with less than they might have been able to get in the past.

The TEFL Sector

From what I can tell, the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) market has not been significantly affected.

The college I used to work for are currently searching for 5 to 6 teachers and, if anything, there seems to be an increase in TEFL jobs advertised on the Internet. For example, over on Dave’s ESL Cafe, there’s a definite increase in the number of jobs advertised on the China job board:

  • First 10 days of November: 19 jobs
  • First 10 days of December: 36 jobs
  • Week starting Monday 20 October: 12 jobs
  • Week starting Monday 8 December: 21 jobs
Note: This information is from the time of publishing. The job board at rotates, so you may not be able to see the information I used in calculation these figures. I’ve got a screen shot of the page, if you really want to see it.

Final Thoughts

While China isn’t immune to the effects of the global recession, if you’re an expat currently living in China, you’re probably best of staying put. In fact, if you’re not already living in China, but you have specialist skills or knowledge, then it may be worth considering a job in china.

6 Responses

  1. Phil

    I don’t know where you are getting your information as this entry reads utterly incorrect.. This year, only 30% of Chinese graduates will be placed in jobs. Many are western educated with fluent english, mandarin and willing to work for less than a lao wai… Technically high-skilled jobs + fluency in Mandarin is the only marginal edge that expats have and at that, Chinese with equivalent skills would be preferred.

  2. Thanks for your comment Phil, although I’ll stand by what I said above.

    I’m talking about people with specialist expertise, not graduates. There are still jobs for the true experts… I believe that still holds true now, even though I wrote this post 5 months ago.

    On the TEFL side, which I’m more familiar with, there’s still an endless demand for decent foreign teachers (qualified or not).

  3. Badar uz Zaman Shah

    Dear Sir:

    I am looking for a Accounting job in China. I would appreciate if you please help me for finding a job in China.

    I am graduated from University of Punjab and living in Lahore. I have 14-15 years experience in varous companies Lahore – Pakistan.


    Badar Uz Zaman

  4. Pingback: China Is Still The Best Place To Find A Job (Jobs In China)

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  6. Statistics reflecting foreign teachers increase or decline in China sought.
    Ideally, I need reliable information regarding comparative number of Foreign Teachers of China, generally. Or, some numbers regarding foreign teachers in 3 -4 major Chinese cities, (i.e. Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing. Can you help?
    Aaron Vessup [now living in Beijing] Have also taught in Hunan and Jilin provinces.

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