If you are ambitious, resourceful and willing to immerse yourself in eastern culture there are numerous job opportunities for foreign workers in China…

One of the biggest attractions to living and working in China, apart from it’s ever expanding economy, is undoubtedly the opportunity to experience a culture very different from your own.

With a population of more than 1.3 billion people and the second-largest economy in the world (behind the USA), job prospects are good but competition for graduate roles is fierce. On the plus side the overall cost of living is considerably lower than in the UK although this does depend on location. Unsurprisingly Beijing, China’s capital, is the most expensive city.

When it comes to exploring a country as vast and rich in history as China there’s lots to see and do. World heritage sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, not to mention the Summer Palace in Beijing are just the start. Possible adventures are endless.

Job market in China

For international candidates wanting to enter the Chinese job market one way of doing so is by being sent on assignment from an international company in the UK. Alternatively the majority of expatriate workers in China find work with foreign-invested enterprises. Opportunities also exist with Chinese companies, but these usually require some knowledge of Mandarin.

For English speakers, job opportunities will mostly be in cities such Beijing and Shaghai – the business and industrial hubs of the country. Many multi-national companies have their Asian headquarters in one of these East coast locations – as well as in Hong Kong and other locations such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Tianjin.

Major industries in China include:

  • chemicals;
  • consumer products;
  • food processing;
  • machine building;
  • mining;
  • technology;
  • textiles;
  • transport.

The country houses many well-known international companies such as:

  • HSBC;
  • IBM;
  • Microsoft;
  • Nestle.

Positions for foreign nationals are available in in-demand occupations including:

  • engineering;
  • IT;
  • marketing/sales;
  • manufacturing/production;
  • technology;
  • tourism.

Jobs in finance and banking are also available, but may be more difficult to enter into.

Jobs in Hong Kong are widely accessible to English speakers. The job market is competitive, with locals and international graduates all vying for work. Opportunities exist in teaching and the media, as well as accountancy, banking and finance, for English speakers with experience.

Job vacancies

For jobs in China search:

Search for jobs in Hong Kong at Classified Post.

Personal contacts are relied upon heavily when job hunting in China. Some vacancies are never formally advertised so if you have contacts in the country use them to your advantage and get networking.

Teaching in China

A popular way to live and work in China while earning a good salary is by teaching and opportunities to do so are plentiful.

As the demand for English language skills increases so do vacancies to teach in schools and universities. You may receive help with accommodation and travel costs to and from China if you are working for a reputable school. You will also receive support with visas and health insurance.

You can teach in Hong Kong with the right qualifications, although work may not be as readily available as in the rest of China, as English is already widely spoken there.

For more information on teaching English in China see:

Work experience and internships in China

Internships and summer work placements for students can be arranged by:

  • AIESEC UK – for students and recent graduates;
  • IAESTE UK – for science, engineering and applied arts students. Placements usually last 12 weeks but opportunities are available at other times of the year.

The British Council also runs an internship programme that enables UK students to gain valuable work experience across a number of industries including:

  • accounting and finance;
  • business;
  • engineering;
  • hospitality;
  • IT;
  • marketing, media and PR;
  • pharmaceuticals.

Placements last two months and take place in Beijing, Chengdu, Qinddao, Shenzhen or Zhuhai. For more information see British Council: Generation UK Internship Programme.

Volunteering in China

Voluntary work can help you build your skill-set and learn a new language. It will help to have some money saved before you set off as the vast majority of voluntary positions are unpaid. Volunteering looks good on your CV and gives you the chance to network and build contacts.

To volunteer in China you should first research what you would like to do and apply to organisations directly.

Some relevant organisations that may offer opportunities in China include:

Language requirements

Having some knowledge of Mandarin will be a definite advantage so it’s worth learning the basics while still at home. On arrival in the country it’s beneficial to take lessons. Those who can speak Mandarin, have good knowledge of the country, and can display an interest in Chinese culture and life, are well placed to find jobs.

Many international companies operate using English and in bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai you should be able to get by if you don’t speak the local language.

However, English fluency rates vary considerably in China and usually depend on age and location. As a general rule, older generations and people living in rural areas will rarely speak English, whereas the younger generation and those residing in bigger cities have a more solid grasp of the English language.

English and Chinese are the official languages of Hong Kong. Nationals speak both Cantonese and Mandarin.

Chinese visas and immigration

British nationals require visas to enter China and will need to acquire one before they arrive. If you are entering Hong Kong you don’t need a visa. However, to work legally, your employer will have to apply for a working visa on your behalf.

The type of visa you require will depend on the length and purpose of your stay. To work in China you’ll need a working visa (Z visa), to obtain one apply at your local Chinese embassy. On arrival you must register with the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) within 24 hours.

Your visa grants you entry into the country but will expire after a certain period, so if you intend to stay you’re required to register for a Residence Permit, you’ll also need a work permit.

If you’re in China on a study visa (F visa) or tourist visa (L visa) be aware that it’s illegal to work, so if you find employment during this time you’ll need to change visa types.

For more information on applying for visas and the different requirements see the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United Kingdom.

How to explain your UK qualifications to employers

UK qualifications are widely recognised throughout the world but it’s advisable to check with employers before applying for jobs.

For more information on the recognition of qualifications see ENIC-NARIC.

Working conditions

China has a five-day working week, typically Monday to Friday. Average working hours per week stand at 40, amounting to eight or nine hours per day. However, working overtime is usually expected with many local companies failing to compensate for this.

Holiday entitlement is relatively low. Employees are entitled to either five, ten or 15 days paid holiday depending on duration of employment with an additional 11 paid public holidays.

The tax year in China runs from January to December and tax rates are based on Individual Income Tax. Income is taxed on a progressive scale starting at 3%, and rising to 45%.

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