Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

China helps expats climb corporate ladder

Updated: 2013-12-03 13:15
( Xinhua)

SHANGHAI - Moving your entire life to a foreign country can be hard. Finding housing, schools, medical care, not to mention a decent job, are just a few of the hurdles expats face.

Now China hopes to entice more skilled experts to its shores, by making the task of relocating and securing a dream job that little bit easier.

The newly revamped Shanghai Employment Promotion Center (SEPC) has been modeled as a one-stop-shop for foreign job seekers.

With more than 430 of the world's Top 500 companies now based in Shanghai, one step is to attract experts in short supply.

China's economic hub Shanghai is home to more than 160,000 expats. In 2013, they again ranked Shanghai as the most attractive city in China.

But while Shanghai may wow with its good looks, it's the overall package expats are looking for.

The Shanghai pilot free trade zone, launched on September 29, is China's latest move in expanding economic dealings with the outside world.

Once upon a time, Chinese bureaucracies like the SEPC were little more than a rubber-stamp department, drowning applicants in mountains of paperwork.

But, at its base in Shanghai, staff here are now trying to woo workers from all corners of the world, with the benefits of grabbing a job in the city.

Ding Feng, the center director, said the center is the first port of call for companies seeking a recruitment permit, a requirement for hiring foreign workers in China.

"Foreign job-seekers could get work visas with the recruitment permit and then apply for a foreigner employment permit," Ding said.

Documents here are in English, allowing foreigners with little knowledge of the language to register for employment or extend their visa.

"This is my first time and so far it seems to be very efficient," one American job seeker told Xinhua in the bustling service hall of the center. "The staff are very helpful."

Beyond the paperwork, the center has now extended its scope to helping expats utilize educational, medical and social networks.

It's all part of the government's recent endeavour to make their departments more service-oriented. The foreign employees, who are referred to as "foreign experts" in China, are among the target population of such services.

Rose Oliver from Britain is one of them. The 49-year-old works as a professor at Shanghai University." I found it more than just a bureaucratic-like agency," Oliver said.

"It is more than an office that facilitates visas. They are actually concerned with expats' working lives, their lifestyles and the quality of life they have in China."

Oliver said it's the department's personal touch which has helped her to "have real exposure to Chinese culture".

One such personal touch are the cultural events run by the center which provide foreign experts with knowledge about living in China.

Huang Weimao, vice director of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Foreign Experts Affairs, said streamlining all-important social security services was another vital role. The SEPC is under the jurisdiction of the bureau.

"We have close contact with expats, to give them help with obtaining child education, medical care and even housing," Huang said.

Its help is appreciated by expats like Oliver. "They provide a lot of security."

"When we have problems, I contact Huang. We don't necessarily have daily contact. But at least there is the knowledge that they are there if you need them," Oliver said.

Besides basic medical insurance, the bureau has coordinated with a state-owned company to offer tailored medical services for expats. "Foreigners tend to have higher requirements," Huang said.

The offerings of assistance have been expanded as part of the Expats Residence Law. The law, which took effect on July 1, grants foreign workers with a bachelor degree or above, equal access to investment, government jobs, schooling, and an all-important driver's license.

Russian biologist Philip Khaytovich works in a joint scientific research center established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Germany's Max Planck Society.

"Before it was not clear what to do with us, because there was no legal framework to deal with foreigners, like how to provide social insurance," Khaytovich said. "Now it changed."

Khaytovich is part of China's "1,000 Foreign Talents" program, used to recruit scientists from around the world.

"I was fortunate to get into the talent program, as it provides generous support for our work. "I think this can make China a very attractive place for research."

The Bureau is responsible for the program's talent recruitment. And as the Top 500s are on the look-out for executives and managerial experts, the Bureau is helping them to do that.

Right now Huang is head-hunting experts in the ship-making, automobile, electromechanics and new materials industries.

As part of not only luring but securing expat workers, China has plans to introduce a long-term visa, to replace the working visa, which must be renewed annually.

"A lot of expats are willing to stay for a long time," said Oliver. "They aren't just coming for a year or two. "They are coming to make a life here."

Huang put it just another improvement in the pipeline. "Foreign experts require a flexible visa policy," Huang said. "The creation of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone provides a new chance for change."

Despite being the tender age of just 40, Khaytovich has already considered retiring in China. "How to deal with foreigners when they retire?" Khaytovich said. "If someone like me works here for a long time, maybe they will stay in China for the rest of their life."

The new residence law for expats has allowed foreigners to collect a pension, but Huang still admits new provisions may take some fine-tuning.

"Old-age services for elderly foreigners may prove to be new challenge for the bureau in coming years," Huang said.

Special coverage:

2013 amazing China

My China Story

Hot Topics
A sailor from British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring tries to catch a mooring line to dock in the north side of the bund at Huangpu River in Shanghai December 10, 2013.