The Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security of China (MHRSS) wants to attract more foreign talent and develop a friendlier visa application process for those with international expertise.
The registered number of employed expats in China currently exceeds 240,000, and includes those in technical, teaching and management positions, according to the latest MHRSS statistics.
Where the demand is
There are a few areas where foreign talent is in demand. Simon Lance, regional director of Hays in China, says: "As China's banking industry matures and moves toward a more structured approach, banks are recruiting candidates with a quantitative and modelling background in order to support local decision making. This is a result of the shortage of local talent in this field."
Language remains a make-it-or-break-it hurdle. Lance says: "There are not that many positions available for someone who is completely foreign. In most cases, bilingual language skills in both Chinese and English remain a prerequisite for many roles. However, banks are generally open for overseas Chinese returnees in most cases."
Another major concern for expats working in China is personal income tax. "It is pretty high compared with Hong Kong, Singapore and other surrounding countries. Companies should figure out a better tax plan for expats as per Chinese tax regulations, in order to attract foreign talent," says Lance.
Many young professionals are taking MBA or language courses in China universities, in hopes of fattening their CVs with China experience, but most find it tough landing banking jobs.
Lance says most banks regulate the number of expats they hire each year. HR departments typically reserve foreign headcount for higher-level management positions where local talent isn't as easily sourced. "Banks are normally more hesitant to employ foreigners over local talent because of the higher possibility that the candidate might choose to return to their home country if they don't settle in well to the culture; instability is something that most banks try to avoid. Expat employees also have higher salary expectations compared to local candidates, which is another reason why even international firms prefer to hire Chinese nationals when possible."
Nevertheless, it's easier to land a job if you have skills which are in demand. According to the latest Hays quarterly report, strong credit analysts, commodity trade salespeople, wealth managers and relationship managers are sought after. "The market also continues to need strong sales professionals. Client and relationship managers are needed to develop solid relationships with multinational corporations, SOEs, local corporates and SMEs. Financial, leasing and project management professionals are also in demand as banks use the current economic environment as an opportunity to consolidate systems and service lines," adds Lance.