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Chile's economy – one of the largest in South America and well known for its stability – is attracting expats from far and wide.
It does have a few challenges, including the diversification of its copper-dependent economy and eliminating a glaring wealth inequality. The mineral-rich mines have long been the bedrock of the country's economy, but as the market continues to contract it has begun to make moves to support other sectors.
Job market in Chile
Santiago, the country's capital and commercial hub, has a few thriving industries, particularly its financial-, computer technology- and electronics sectors, and the city is continuously asserting itself as an important South American trade centre.
A selection of Iarge multinationals has set up shop in the country. Expats planning on working in Chile may find that a company transfer to one of these business giants, or a similar institution, is the easiest way to find employment.
While agriculture and mining are important primary sector industries, the financial and tourism sectors also provide opportunities to eager expats.
New arrivals with an entrepreneurial spirit can set up a business in Chile, but they must do their research into the types of business possibilities and the demand for it.
Freelance work is another option. In today’s ever-changing technological world, more and more people are working online, doing jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world. Luckily, internet access and speeds are relatively good in Chile, allowing for freelance work.
Many people move to Chile and South America doing odd jobs, either before finding a more permanent role or before moving elsewhere. These don’t necessarily pay well but are perfect for those backpackers and travellers who need only food, accommodation and a bit of pocket money for travelling. Websites such as Workaway are a good bet to find these sorts of opportunities.
The job market is restricted in a few ways, though. Employers value qualifications over experience, especially degrees from the US and the UK. Some types of work are also limited to Chilean nationals and have strict requirements for foreign degrees such as in medicine. These types of jobs require certain Chilean accreditation, which could be a lengthy process – expats should seek the advice of a relocation company and legal professional to help with this.
Expats in certain industries and with senior-level positions in large companies are likely to get by with just speaking English, while many others find work in the English language sector. Having CELTA or TEFL accreditation is always helpful to teach English as a foreign language, and those interested in teaching in the formal education sector will need a teaching degree.
Otherwise, the job market often favours those who speak Spanish – good news for those expats relocating from other South- and Central American countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Haiti. There are conflicting views towards people from foreign countries but the job market remains competitive.
Learning Spanish is not too difficult for new arrivals who put in the effort: there are many opportunities to take up classes and private lessons, while expat children may easily absorb the language at school.
Finding a job in Chile
Expats can find a job before moving to Chile or once they arrive. Some may say it’s better to have a job in place before moving, mainly because the employing company often helps process visas and work permits, as well as allows for negotiations of expat contracts. It’s also a sense of security to those moving that they will be able to afford the cost of living in Chile. Many expenses are quite high, especially for a Western standard, and a normal Chilean wage is unlikely to support many expat needs.
That said, others argue that searching for a job after arriving in Chile makes finding employment not only feasible but significantly easier. One reason is that many jobs may require employees to begin work as soon as possible, and only starting the relocation process amid this slows things down.
What’s more, is that in Chile, personal relationships are crucial. Knowing people, having connections and networking are key in doing business and finding work. In fact, job opportunities are often not even published because the hiring party would rather recruit through personal recommendations. One’s network, also known as pituto in Chile, is fundamental. So, being in Chile, meeting people and making connections ease the job-seeking process, especially for those who are extroverted, social and ready to meet and make business acquaintances.
Nevertheless, online portals, such as LinkedIn and Trabajando, are worth a look for job-hunting expats.
Work culture in Chile
Spanish is the official language in Chile, but many skilled workers and mid-level managers speak English. Knowledge of the local language can open doors to work opportunities, and even those fluent in European Spanish may need to take a few Chilean Spanish lessons to learn some of the regional nuances. Not only does speaking Spanish help expats communicate and do business, but it also shows their respect for local Chileans and their efforts to get to know the people and culture.
Above all else, though, expats working in Chile may be most taken aback by the long working hours. Although office hours on paper seem standard, from around 8.30am to 6pm, they are often extended. The Latin American lust for life doesn't stop locals from putting in well above the 45-hour workweek required by law, one of the highest in the world. The long working hours and commute home afterwards may be something to get used to.
►Learn about business culture and etiquette in Doing Business in Chile
►For a breakdown of typical prices, see the Cost of Living in Chile
"Meetings often start with prolonged conversation. Government offices are especially notorious in this regard. When you go to an office like the IRS or the Civil Registry to do something, things move at a snail’s pace." Read our interview with long-term Chilean resident and expat, Noëlle for more on work culture.
"Alas, here in Chile it’s all about who you know, not what you know. Network, network, network." Get advice on Chile's economic climate in Nina's interview.
Are you an expat living in Chile?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Chile. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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