Working in Taipei

Expats working in Taipei will find themselves at the centre of the Taiwanese economy.

Foreigners need a work permit for Taiwan to legally take up employment, a process that must be started by a local employer.

During the "Taiwan Miracle", when the country experienced rapid economic growth, foreign investment substantially increased and with it came job opportunities for expats.

Although growth has slowed since then, finding work in Taipei is relatively easy. The downside is that, aside from company transfers, opportunities for expats in Taiwan are concentrated in a few industries, such as IT, English teaching, translation, international trade and journalism.

If an expat has the right kind of qualifications, there may be opportunities in their field. It is common to meet foreigners working in tech companies, accounting firms, banks, finance companies, pharmaceutical firms and more.

It is difficult to get hired at these firms from within the country, however. Generally foreigners are sent to Taipei by their companies back home, and didn’t set up their own work situation. That said, it is possible for expats to find work locally, although they may be offered less pay than if they were transferred to Taiwan.

Job market in Taipei

Although the market has become a lot more competitive, there is still a demand for English teachers at both large organisations and individual schools. If an expat is desperate for work, they may well find themselves teaching until they find something better.

That said, expats with a tech background could do quite well and those with good business acumen can usually drum up opportunities. There are plenty of English-language publications, so qualified expats may find work with a newspaper, magazine or other publishers. Long-term residents often start up their own businesses, including bars, bakeries, websites and restaurants.

The country’s proximity to and improved trade relationships with China means more business opportunities in Taiwan. There is a lot of business between the two countries and many companies have offices in both.

However, China is globally seen as the place to do business. Expats might be sent on frequent business trips or even transferred to the mainland. Taiwan and China are very different places, and this can cause a great deal of culture shock. It is difficult for expats who love Taipei and are committed to living here, because the best opportunities are often in China, where they don’t wish to live.

Work culture in Taipei

One major complaint by expats and locals alike is that the 9am to 5pm workday in Taiwan feels more like a 7am to 11pm workday. Expats may be asked to work on weekends and might get emails or phone calls from work as late as 10pm. It is not uncommon for bosses to expect their employees to finish projects or do research in their personal time.

Teachers and other hourly-wage workers may find themselves with more unpaid work than they think is fair. While it is uncommon for locals to protest these incursions into personal time, if they are polite, it is possible for expats to establish boundaries regarding what they are willing to do and when they are willing to do it.