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Standing apart from the crowd

Updated: 2014-01-03 12:49
By Joseph Catanzaro and Li Aoxue ( China Daily Africa)

Talent crunch

While state-owned Chinese companies are often keen to employ foreign talent, the number of positions is limited. Wang Gang, deputy director of human resources for car producer BAIC, says it urgently needs the right people to help boost overseas sales.

"As two of our main focuses now are selling cars in overseas markets and building factories in foreign countries, we need overseas talents who are familiar with the local market," Wang says.

For management positions, Wang says BAIC will consider offering packages that include health coverage for dependents, a car and accommodation, and help covering children's education.

Zhou says the obscenely generous expatriate packages that used to be par for the course are fast disappearing, with foreigners now signing contracts much more in line with local pay and conditions. Interestingly, this has not necessarily decreased China's desirability.

Alistair Michie, who sits on the Foreign Experts Advisory Committee for the government's State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, agrees the expatriate package bubble has burst.

But he says China's developing and changing economy presents a new set of "phenomenal" opportunities for foreigners, particularly in the services sector, as the demand for those with engineering and scientific backgrounds levels out.

An old China hand, Michie was recently the recipient of the prestigious China Friendship Award. He, like many other experts, believes there is an impending jobs boom for foreigners in Chinese companies as they increasingly go global and bring aboard more local expertise for their new markets.

"What is needed now, critically, is foreign expertise to advance the service sector," he says. "If you look at the US or most of the European countries, the service sector accounts for around the high 70s (as a percentage) of the economy. If you look at China, it's at 43 percent. It's an area where I think there is a fantastic opportunity for foreign people to come in."

China Jobs, which is sponsored by SAFEA, has run 24 jobs fairs for foreigners since 2005.

A spokeswoman for the organization concedes it is currently harder for foreigners to secure work in China. "Currently, we need experts in areas such as steel making and biochemistry, area managers, sales people, teachers, designers, IT engineers, professional managers, consultants, translators and electrical engineers," she says.

Of the 3,000 foreigners who have attended one of the organization's jobs fairs this year, she says 85 percent will end up with some form of employment in China.

Ethiopian PR recruit Ayenew says she thinks there will be an increasing number of opportunities for Africans in China, but urged those thinking of making the move to learn the language, remember to act like ambassadors for their nation and their continent, and to use their time to put themselves out there.

"I think it's a really exciting time here. When I first came, I felt like a trailblazer. Now I feel like, if you're not exploring this opportunity you are already behind."

She says she believes the "next generation" of Africans working in China will be more numerous, and build on the successes of early pioneers.

"In two or three years, my story will be so common," she says.

Adebayo says in the tougher jobs market for foreigners in China, Africans should not focus on short-term financial gain. It is a pipedream.

Instead, he advises job seekers to concentrate on what professional experience in China can do for their career in the longer term.

"If you're an African coming to China looking for business or employment opportunities, your priority should not be the wages now," he says. "Being here is playing the long-term game. Eventually the money will come. Be aware that there's nowhere where the streets are paved with gold. You have to pay your dues and work hard."

Standing apart from the crowd

Standing apart from the crowd

( China Daily Africa Weekly 01/03/2014 page6)

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