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China’s job market: a new haven for international students & graduates

As Chinese companies expand overseas, the demand for employees capable of navigating the complexities of international markets increases
March 15 2024
3 Min Read

For a considerable period, Mainland China has stood out as the largest source of international students.

For years, Higher Education Statistics Agency statistics in the UK have shown China has consistently been the largest source of international students from a single country.

In fact, since 2015, the number of Chinese students staying in the UK has exceeded that of the entire European Union.

And as China undergoes industrial upgrading and adjustment, its enterprises have demonstrated a more diversified demand for talent in recent years.

This enhances the appeal of the Chinese job market to both Chinese students with international study experience and international students.

The shift can be attributed to various factors, including China’s strategic emphasis on attracting international talent to advance its development vision.

Priority positions for international students

The Chinese recruitment market increasingly recognises the value of international students, offering more priority positions to attract this diverse talent pool. Over five years to 2023, positions labeled “Priority for International Students” on mShare’s recruitment product InternShare surged by over 280%.

Roles – such as in product design, international media operations and multinational legal affairs – typically regard overseas study experience and corresponding skills as essential qualifications.

Global perspectives, international business competence, cross-cultural communication abilities and language proficiency are all in demand.

It all aids the global competitiveness of Chinese companies, but also integrates international perspectives into their operations.

Over the past decade, numerous Chinese companies have set their sights globally.

iiMedia Research data shows that in 2023, 29.5% and 39.4% of large and medium-sized Chinese enterprises, respectively, in various sectors had implemented international strategies. A total of 28.9% small enterprises have plans to do so.

In September 2023, the ByteDance-owned TikTok launched its e-commerce service in the US, with daily transaction volumes quickly exceeding $10 million.

Others like Temu (Pdd), SHEIN, AliExpress (Alibaba), as well as smartphone and gaming companies like Xiaomi, TECNO, OPPO, miHoYo and Lilith, have also continued international presence expansions.

Even popular tea drink brand Honey Snow City had 4,000 stores outside Mainland China by October 2023.

As Chinese companies expand overseas, the demand for employees capable of navigating the complexities of international markets increases. International students are ideally positioned to meet these needs.

While Chinese state-owned enterprises have traditionally been conservative in their recruitment policies regarding international students, a significant shift has occurred in recent years.

They have also opened more positions to international students, integrating international expertise and perspectives in their modernisation efforts.

According to mShare research, an increasing number of returning students have shown strong interest in working for Chinese SOEs.

The internationalisation and innovation shift within enterprises represents an important step in integrating global talent into key sectors of the Chinese economy.

Various Chinese cities have also introduced a range of policies and incentives to support overseas students returning to work in China.

“The Chinese job market is evolving to become more inclusive and globalised”

Measures include simplifying settlement and residence permit processes, tax incentives and housing subsidies.

Challenges and solutions

Despite positive trends, challenges remain for both companies and returning overseas students.

Differences in educational systems, graduation timings and recruitment channels across countries require significant additional investment from Chinese companies.

It leads to higher costs for hiring international talent.

International students returning to China face challenges as well. According to mShare statistics, the average number of resume submissions per international student on job platforms in 2022 was 34.8, a more than 90% increase from the 18.2 submissions in 2020.

Furthermore, the number of students participating in the Chinese job market competition after having three to four internship experiences has also significantly risen.

The Chinese job market is evolving to become more inclusive and globalised.

Collective efforts of companies, state-owned enterprises and local governments to attract and support international talent underscore China’s commitment to fostering a diverse and dynamic workforce.

International students can leverage their global advantages, strategically planning their job searches and seizing opportunities within the country’s vibrant demand.

About the author: Zhou Jianhui is from the marketing and branding department at mShare, one of the biggest platforms in China for graduates’ job hunting.

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