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High-end overseas professionals in demand
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-25 00:04

Facing a growing influx of overseas labourers into populous China, a senior labour official has stressed the country's need for high-end human resources but not for ordinary employees.

The official said China will produce a law next year to prevent an influx into a country burdened with nearly 14 million urban jobless and 150 million surplus farmers.

"But we will always roll out the red carpet for overseas high-tech and management professionals, who are badly needed to spur China's economic and social development," the official told China Daily on the condition of not being named.

He said the government will soon revise present regulations governing employment of foreigners and those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. "Now we are collecting views and suggestions on how to improve the regulations."

Current regulations do not clearly define which governmental departments are authorized to govern such employment. This led to involvement of several departments, including labour, foreign commerce and public security.

Meanwhile, this type of multi-source management has led to an underground market for employing ordinary overseas workers in many cities.

Official statistics indicate about 90,000 foreigners are working in China after going through procedures in line with current regulations.

Most of them are from industrial counties such as the United States and Japan. Seventy per cent of them are working in enterprises invested in by foreigners.

But the official said the real number is probably far greater than that because of the underground labour market.

"So we should act at once to stop illegal labourers and import more professionals," said the official.

He said China's demand for high-end human resources will grow continuously as the country increasingly realizes its commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Shanghai has become the first choice for foreigners. During the first 11 months of this year, 15,000 new applicants were approved to work in China's economic hub. The number represents a 30 per cent year-on-year growth.

Beijing approved 3,248 foreigners to work in the Chinese capital during the period and these statistics also increased by 29 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Moreover, a total of 40,000 from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have been officially allowed to work in the mainland.

Yet the application procedure for well-educated professionals is still inconvenient, said the official.

"The law-making efforts should mainly focus on streamlining application procedures for professionals," said the official.

Chinese professionals

Some experts urged the government should not only absorb foreign professionals but also professional Chinese in foreign countries.

"They and their capabilities should be treasured as well," said R.C. Lao, a Chinese Canadian working as an environmental expert in China.

He urged the government to take concrete action to welcome Chinese studying or working in foreign countries to return.

"Well-educated overseas Chinese should be included as the backbone to push the Chinese mainland forward," said Lao, also the resident project manager of the Canada-China Project on Cleaner Production.

Various-level governments have shown enthusiasm to attract overseas Chinese to return but some of them have only delivered lip service.

"Some of them are only eyeing capital and projects, but paying less attention to human resources," said 35-aged Jia Jin, who holds a United States doctor of medicine degree, but who has suffered many difficulties in finding an ideal post in his hometown in Gansu Province.

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