BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The service, IT and media industries have overtaken the education industry as major job sources for expats in China, according to figures from the 2019 Job Fair for Foreigners in Beijing.
The job fair, organised on Sunday (April 21) by the Foreign Talent Research Centre and the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, has nearly 1,000 jobs available in a range of professions, and attracted more than 500 expats.
The expat job market - once dominated by language teachers - has seen a major shift.
Approximately half the jobs available at the fair were in the sales, media, marketing and IT sectors, including openings for journalists, brand and communication managers and software engineers.
"A certain level of Mandarin proficiency is an advantage," said project manager Yang Jiayin from the research centre. "The best-paying jobs generally require the ability to speak Mandarin. Positions that require fluent spoken and written Mandarin tend to pay more than the same jobs without the language requirement."
Oasis Games, a publisher of interactive games, has participated in the Beijing job fair for foreigners since 2013. The company translates Chinese games into 16 foreign languages, with 200 million people playing them in 130 countries.
Ms Ai Xuan, the company's human resources representative, said many Chinese companies are seeking a bigger share of the international market and are looking for expats with Chinese language proficiency, and those who understand Chinese culture.
She said most of the company's foreign staff are freshmen who learnt Mandarin at Chinese universities through exchange programmes. The annual salary for such staff is about 180,000 yuan (S$36,400) a year.
Ms Yang said the income gap between expats and Chinese employees in the same positions has been reduced in past decades. She said that in the 2000s, the annual salary of a foreign employee would be five to 10 times higher than that of a Chinese employee, but the gap is narrower now at about two to three times, partly because salaries paid to Chinese have risen faster than expat salaries.
Statistics from the State administration showed that China has attracted expats from Asian and European countries because of its rapid economic growth and a widening range of opportunities.
Data collected from the previous 10 years at the Beijing job fair showed that more than 50 per cent of job seekers are from European countries, with a majority from Spain and Portugal, while about 25 per cent are from Asian countries, with a majority from India.
Mr Khan Ghulam, a 32-year-old Pakistani software engineer, has been working for a China-United States joint venture for two years. He attended the fair to find a higher-paying job in a Chinese start-up.
"China has a promising future with its growing power in the international society, and it gives young people more opportunities, which I believe will attract lots of job seekers from abroad," he said.
Last year, China issued about 336,000 work permits to foreigners. China had a total of more than 950,000 expats working in the country as at the end of last year, according to the administration. By comparison, there were only 180,000 foreign workers employed in China in 1996.
The increasing number of expats working in China has also boosted services targeting foreigners.
"Many expats have difficulty in maintaining their dietary habits. Finding a restaurant serving familiar food and getting fast food delivery services are two major problems," said Mr Liu Chao, marketing director of an online bilingual food delivery company called Sherpa's, which now has 100,000 foreign customers.
"Expats are an emerging consumption group with great potential. China holds great charm for foreign expats, but they'll stay here longer only with more life conveniences," he noted.