Despite the GDP growth slowdown (6.9%), Mainland China remains a popular expat destination for compensation packages. This is backed by various global surveys conducted by different well-known institutes.
A survey by consulting firm ECA International in 2015 showed that China jumped to fourth place, overtaking Hong Kong, in the latest ranking of expatriate pay packages in the Asia-Pacific region. A total employment package for an expatriate middle manager in China now amounts to over US$276,000 per year on average, with Shanghai and Beijing leading the country as the highest paying cities. However, as tier-2 cities still enjoy lower cost of benefit packages than tier-1 cities and if the latter was to be removed, China's ranking would appear towards the bottom above only Malaysia and Pakistan, according to ECA.
The Expat Explorer Survey for 2014 commissioned by HSBC with nearly 10,000 expats from over 100 countries taking part revealed that China ranked top 3rd destination for expats in terms of career progression, financial wellbeing and quality of life, behind Switzerland and Singapore. While most highest earning expats live and work in Asia, China is home to the highest earning expats among Asian countries, with nearly a quarter of the expats making over US$300,000 in annual salary, the highest proportion among all countries. Although its overall ranking, covering aspects like experience, economics and ease of raising a family abroad, dropped to No. 27 in the same survey for 2015, the change in figures is insignificant and China is still the best place for expats looking to increase their income. 76% of expats in the country have stronger buying power after moving to China, HSBC said.
According to InterNations, the largest world wide networking site for people residing and working abroad, China was voted one of the top destinations in the site's Working Abroad Index which explores the experiences of 14,300 expats from over 100 nations in their new country of residence including factors like job satisfaction and career prospects, satisfaction with working hours, work-life balance, job security, and the state of the local economy. In the 'employment and profession' sub-category, China ranked 3rd, only next to Malta and the United States. Expats in China are generally satisfied with their salary level. 75% of interviewees are contented with their current financial status. 9 in 10 expats find themselves with enough or more than enough disposable income than they did back home as they earn more and spend less on public transport, household goods, utilities and leisure costs. The survey result also indicates that three quarters of expats express high job satisfaction and are optimistic about their career prospect.
Expat pay packages are on the rise in China as a result of soaring cost of living, a stronger yuan, as well as increased pollution and food security issues that have driven away many international talents in recent years. In 2014, twice as many expats moved out of China than into it, a study by UniGroup Relocation revealed.
One important factor that determines the level of pay is the type of jobs, which requires different levels of skills. According to the HSBC survey, working in education is the most common profession in developing countries, with 17% of expats employed in this field, and in China it's no exception. Other most sought-after expat jobs include banking and financial services, sales and marketing, human resources, advertising and communications, manufacturing and industry, health sciences and IT, according to Expat Arrivals, an online platform providing country information.
Language ability is another deciding factor that affects the salary level. A good command of the Chinese language will certainly stand you in good stead when it comes to more job opportunities and better pay.
However, while expats have a generally positive outlook on their earning potential in China as the above surveys demonstrate, one problem has been highlighted – most expats find it hard to integrate into the local culture. The HSBC finding shows that nearly half of the interviewees say they spend more time with other expats and only a quarter say they spend more time socialising with locals. In the 'livability index' poll in which 64 countries took part, China takes the 56th spot.
On the other hand, the ECA report finds that most expats in China find Chinese very friendly, but only one in three is able to make friends with locals with ease. Language barrier may be the main reason, with 81% of interviewees saying Chinese is difficult to acquire.
For skilled expats looking to relocate to China, these are the factors that should be weighed in their decision whether to move to China or not. For those of you who are already living and working here, you're welcome to share your thoughts with us.
References:* HSBC Epats Explorer Report 2015: https://expatexplorer.hsbc.com/survey/files/pdfs/overall-reports/2015/HSBC_Expat_Explorer_2015_report.pdf* ECA International survey: http://www.eca-international.com/myeca/surveys* InterNations Expat Insider 2015 Report: https://www.internations.org/expat-insider/* ExpatArrivals: http://www.expatarrivals.com* Unigroup Relocation: http://www.unigrouprelocation.com