As a whole, China is considered a great economic success story, with the last 30 years seeing the country transform itself from traditional communism to a buoyant market economy. As a result of rapid industrialisation, China’s consumer market has flourished. As a whole, the country is increasingly open to foreign investment, and foreigners who consider it to be a land of opportunity have flocked to China.
Both Hong Kong and Shanghai are better known for being economic centres, while Beijing has traditionally been China’s cultural and political centre. That said, Beijing has asserted itself as a fertile ground for start-up businesses and innovative entrepreneurs. Expats interested in working in this sort of environment, rather than a strictly corporate atmosphere, should consider working in Beijing.
Job market in Beijing
As the local economy continues to develop, the open consumption of consumer and luxury goods is surging, attracting international investment to fill in the gaps left by Chinese businesses.
At the same time, the construction industry continues to boom throughout the country as the Chinese government pushes for continued major improvements to infrastructure, especially in the interior. In addition, agriculture remains the backbone of the country and will be for the foreseeable future. With rapid urbanisation, a manpower shortage has emerged in certain sectors of the economy, meaning that employees with the right skills are in high demand.
Traditionally, a large financial sector has driven much of Beijing's economy, including many foreign banks with offices in the city. Beijing also has large electronics and computer industries, as well as retail and tourism industries.
One indication of China’s desire to do business with the world is the number of English language schools in the country. These institutions employ a large community of expat English teachers and are among the easiest places to find employment in Beijing. Teaching wages are, however, often lower than salaries for expat jobs in other sectors.
Finding a job in Beijing
The test for whether an expat will be able to find a job in Beijing is to ask whether they have something to offer that Chinese people in Beijing can't do as well. There are thousands of jobs for language teachers of all languages, although the highest demand is for English teachers, as well as in industries where a foreign language is necessary, such as broadcasting.
Many jobs do, however, require a rudimentary knowledge of Mandarin. Expats with work visas are often called 'Foreign Experts', a phrase which is printed on their Alien Registration Card.
Also, foreigners are allowed to open their own businesses in China, and many do. Most choose to take on a Chinese partner to deal with much of the paperwork, though agencies for setting up businesses are easy to find. There are many foreign-owned restaurants, for instance, but they do face several challenges and are encouraged to take on Chinese staff rather than act purely for foreign interests.
There is no problem with job mobility – it is relatively easy to switch jobs while living in Beijing. However, the employee has to have their visa renewed with the support of their new employer – an expat cannot get a job, then resign and still keep their Foreign Expert status.
Teaching English is the easiest kind of work to find, but wages are relatively low. Expats considering this option are advised to do their research carefully as many foreigners find themselves underpaid or working for less-than-desirable employers.
There are many online resources for expats wanting to find a job in Beijing. Online job and employment platforms such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn are common starting points for job seekers, and expats interested in a particular organisation may find postings on the respective website. Recruitment agencies are also beneficial.
Work culture in Beijing
When moving to Beijing for work, new arrivals may need some time to adjust to the business culture. Working hours are usually long and there is a high demand for good quality work, which may put a lot of pressure on expats.
Of course, each company or organisation may favour a unique work culture, but there are several aspects of doing business that are ubiquitous in China, including networking and guanxi, which emphasises the role of building strong and trustworthy relationships with business associates.
►Doing Business in China gives more insight into the country's work culture
►For more on employment, see Work Permits for China
"I think it’s fairly easy for foreigners to find jobs; the question is whether the jobs are very good. If you aren’t picky and are highly flexible, you can get a job teaching English somewhere. If you’re picky, it’ll be harder, though not impossible." Read more in this interview with Kara.
"Online listings on thebeijinger and echinacities are excellent resources for finding jobs, but it can be helpful to have a recommendation from an expat already living in the city for which companies to whom you should apply." Get more insight into working in Beijing in this interview with expat Greg.
Are you an expat living in Beijing?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Beijing. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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