The HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2013 saw China emerge on top as the best country for expats to be in, thanks mainly to its economics and the experience it offers. The country’s GDP expanded 7.7% last year and is forecast to grow 7.4% in 2014. The overall economy is stable, even as contribution to GDP from tertiary industries (such as services) has outpaced contribution from secondary industries, including manufacturing.
In December 2013, industrial production grew by 9.7% over the same month last year, while retail sales grew 13.6%. There’s a bit of bad news for the automotive industry, though, as vehicle sales in 2014 are predicted to grow only 8-10%, as opposed to 14% last year. Thanks to growth in productivity, the country is likely to see 7.6% growth rate over the next decade, even as the quality of growth continues to improve.
Contrast this with the world economy. The IMF predicts that the global economy will grow 3.6% in 2014. Developed economies are set to see 2% growth, while emerging and developing economies will grow by 5.1%. Clearly, the Chinese dragon has a lot of firepower left in it.
Beijing: City snapshot
Beijing, the capital of China, is also the value-added manufacturing powerhouse of the country. The city manufactures communications equipment, computers, transport equipment (including automotives), machinery, food and beverages, raw chemical materials and chemical products, metallic and non-metallic mineral products, and processes petroleum and coke products – among others. Electronics manufacturing – including mobile phones and computers – is the biggest industry. The city is also China’s biggest automobile producer. Wholesale and retail trade is another key sector, with multiple commercial and shopping districts making their presence felt all over. In the services industries, transportation, IT, telecommunications, accommodation and catering services, finance and real estate enjoy pride of place. Tourism, too, is a thriving sector and so are related verticals such as hotels and hospitality. The city is a hub for international banks and financial institutions that have set up base here.
Top destination for expats
The quality of life China offers its expats is on par with the best in the world. According to the latest HSBC survey, 49% of expats in China say their work-life balance has improved.
Cities like Beijing and Shanghai are very cosmopolitan and feature at the top of the list of key destinations for expats. In a nod to the importance of integration into the local culture, 86% of expats in China attempt to learn the local language.
Chinese state-owned enterprises are actively courting foreign professionals to represent them in the international arena. The job market started picking up in the second half of 2013, and currently there is huge demand for foreign professionals with specific knowledge of capital markets and listings regimes. Several corporations in China are on their way to being listed on international bourses, and professionals with experience in international capital markets are seen as the right people to further Chinese interests abroad.
On the other hand, the country’s growing focus on serving domestic consumer demand is also creating exciting opportunities for those with sales and marketing experience in automotive, FMCG and retail. Due to the present development of the Beijing economy, candidates with hard skills and professional experience have certain advantages. Industries looking to hire such professionals include – engineering, medical technology, environmental tech, the chemical sector, pharmaceuticals, Information Technology (IT), R&D, intellectual property law, international patent affairs, and finance.
In a report released last year, over 25% of the 4000 professionals surveyed in China said they had changed jobs in the previous 12 months, each time receiving salary hikes of 20-50%. Most of this activity was among people earning more than US $8000 per month.
Profiles in demand
China is a unique market in some ways. Its escalating costs are offset by the vast, virtually unlimited potential for growth. This is why companies are forever on the lookout for senior executives who have experience achieving rapid growth along with consistent profits. CFO/ financial director level managers with experience in healthcare and consumer goods, especially, are in demand.
According to recruitment firm CTPartners, this year, certain senior roles in technology are very sought-after not just in China, but across Asia-Pacific:
• Chief Digital Officer, Head of eCommerce/ Omni-Channel
• Chief Risk Officer/ Cybersecurity/ Information Security Officer
• Chief Marketing Officer
• Vice President, M-Commerce, Retail
• Managing Director, Data Scientist/ Data Analytics Leader
• Chief Creative Officer, Media/ Television
• Board Director, Digital
• Chief Information Officer
Digital transformation is a trend in nearly every market, especially retail and travel. Companies are looking for a Chief Digital Officer who can help them transition smoothly to digital and mobile platforms. Increasingly, B2B businesses are headed the ‘consumer’ way, requiring them to embrace the digital platform in a big way, as well.
Chief Marketing Officers too are in demand, particularly those with experience in using analytics to help measure the impact of marketing on revenue and growth. Customer-centric and digitally savvy marketing executives capable of creating and implementing marketing programs across platforms will find themselves chased by headhunters. As customer engagement assumes more and more importance, these roles too become critical. Correspondingly, the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) too assumes greater importance in China this year.
Those with experience in any of these profiles should definitely put Beijing on their map, this season.
Compensation and benefits
Senior professionals who switch jobs in China are looking at salary increases of ~30%. Online business and lifestyle service sectors are actively seeking professionals, according to Robert Walters’ 2014 China Salary Survey. FMCG, retail and technology are among the fastest growing sectors in Beijing, creating exciting opportunities for professionals.
Banking and financial services are expected to see hiring growth of 5-10%, while pharmaceuticals and medical care too will expand.
A survey by 51job.com that covered real estate, high-tech, consumer products and manufacturing, and other key sectors, interviewed 3400 enterprises and 4600 employees in China. According to the survey, those in finance received the best salary hikes in 2013, with a 10.4% increase in salary, followed by 10.1% salary growth in real estate, 9.9% in high-tech, and 9.2% in bio-pharmaceuticals. The numbers indicate strong hiring demand for qualified, senior professionals in these fields, and companies are willing to pay a premium to attract and retain such professionals.
According to a Hays report, average pay increase in China is higher than in other countries in Asia. Beijing and Shanghai attract many financial institutions, banks, and companies in the service industry, leading to huge demand for specialized talent in these fields, in these cities.
Make sure you’re ready to to take your career to CEO level and succeed. Sign up to the CI Executive Career Management programme and get access to a Career Coach to guide and coach you through your journey to board level. Also don’t forget to keep a lookout for the top roles that become available in emerging markets.
Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and our LinkedIn page by clicking on the buttons below!
Tech jobs: CIOs look safe, IT managers face chop, chief digital officer is the next big thing