China is a land of opportunity for Australian nationals but finding reliable and useful information can be tricky and especially so for working out how to work in China. For those keen on avoiding the teaching English route, or for those ready to move on to bigger and better things than teaching English, Asia Options has curated a useful guide for you to understand the job market for non-teaching jobs in China for young Australians.
Job Sites in China
Your first port of call should be the following job boards and organisations, most of which are a go to for Australian companies seeking talent and advertising current positions.
- AustCham Beijing Jobs Board (professional jobs and internships in China)
- Atlas China (a recruitment agency which offers a free job matching service for Mandarin speaking professionals)
- Australia China Alumni Association Job Board (Asia Options’ choice for the best jobs and internships in China for Australians)
- Australia China Youth Association Careers Portal (another good choice for jobs and internships in China)
- Jing Jobs (cutting edge of jobs and internships in China for tech, start-up and marketing)
- Seek (jobs and internships in the Asia Pacific, you can narrow your search down to ‘China’)
- The Beijinger (jobs and internships in Beijing, but too many teaching jobs)
- Travel China Guide website (comprehensive expat jobs board)
- eChinaCities (comprehensive expat jobs board)
- China Daily (comprehensive expat jobs board)
- Alibaba (in Chinese, only the occasional job position geared to foreigners)
- Amazon China (China based and global positions, requirements are very high)
- Macquarie (Hong Kong & Shanghai)
- ANZ Bank China (Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Sichuan, Tianjin, Zhejiang)
Internships in China are a common entry point for non-teaching job opportunities. Therefore it’s important to identify internship hosts which offer the prospect of full-time employment. Many companies in China leverage an internship program as talent identification and are willing to overlook inexperience to hire proven talent. Internships are generally much easier to secure than full-time employment but the most difficult barrier is the visa hurdle. Finding an internship once you have adequate visa support is not difficult and international companies are in desperate need for competent young foreign talent.
You can find internships in a variety of ways including networking events, friend referrals, online job sites and even a cold email. The key though is identifying the appropriate intern host. For example, while China Policy in Beijing offers an excellent and rewarding internship program, the overwhelming majority of their interns will not be offered a full-time position due to the modest size of the firm. A larger firm such as Weber Shandwick in Beijing though does have a proven track record in hiring interns and is a better long term choice.
You might also want to resist the temptation to intern for a renown company downsizing their staff numbers. For example, Siemens in Beijing does run an internship program but the company is currently restructuring, making it unlikely for internships to lead to full-time employment. You can normally gauge a company’s hiring demands by asking around, checking how often the company posts new positions on their website or hints from an actual interview with the company.
In addition, you should also look out for internship hosts who can act as multipliers. Chambers of Commerce are an ideal multiplier because after a three-month internship the Chamber may be able to refer you on to a member company or a Board Director’s company. Government trade commissions are another good option. While government internships rarely lead on to full-time employment, your supervisor and colleagues should be well-placed to refer you on to other companies they work closely with in the private sector. The key, of course, is to work hard and assure your internship host that you are committed and willing to learn so that they can feel confident in referring you on to another employer.
Finally, internship experience in China significantly adds to your resume and job prospects, and a reference letter from an employer in China will go a long way to helping you find your first break in China.
There are many Australian-affiliated organisations that hire or look for interns regularly, including:
- China Policy
- Geoff Raby & Associates
- Peking University Australian Studies Centre Internship Program
Unfortunately, due to the changes to the visa system introduced in late 2013, the requirements for a work visa have become more stringent. In short, you must be between the ages of 24-65 (55 for women), your employer must be accredited to employ foreigners, and you yourself must qualify as a ‘foreign expert’.
However, there is more flexibility than this implies, and often having English as a first-language and having a Bachelor’s degree is sufficient to be classified an ‘expert’. However, you must also validate two years of relevant full-time work experience in your home country. In the past there have been a number of informal avenues to bypass visa restrictions and while certain channels do exist, it is becoming more and more difficult.
More information on visa regulations can be found here.
Foreigners generally get paid a ‘foreign salary’ – typically higher than the wage of Chinese counterparts, but it does vary considerably and in recent years the gap has been closing. Expat packages, where foreigners are relocated to China with their standard salary plus considerable additional benefits, including housing and tuition fees for children, etc, have almost dried up. Instead, more and more companies such as ANZ and Macquarie are opting for a local-hire policy devoid of expatriate packages, and target Australians in-country as well as returned Chinese who studied abroad. Embassies and diplomatic organisations in China still offer a traditional salary and expat package for their career diplomats, but more and more are contracting jobs locally as well.
The job market in China is, therefore, getting much more competitive for Australians in China, and under the local-hire policy, foreigners should not always expect to be making buckets of money. Wages for grad entry positions are usually at a rate which allows for a comfortable lifestyle in China but considered quite low compared to wages in Australia and western countries and without the benefit of superannuation and other contributions. The average wage for young expats in Beijing is approximately 10,000-20,000 RMB per month.
Management positions pay at a much higher rate in China and which is where high demand for expats remain. However, management position salaries in China still do not compete with the salaries offered in the West and so attracting and holding the best and most experienced talent can be problematic for companies operating in China. At the same time, this opens opportunities for younger people in their late 20’s who have 2-4 years experience to step into management positions in small to medium enterprises and other senior positions that would normally be off limits in a mature labour market like in Australia.
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