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More foreigners to work in China
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-18 23:54

China needs to import more foreign high-tech and management professionals in order to sharpen its global competitiveness, national labour officials are saying.

But foreigners are not encouraged to work as ordinary employees in China since the country itself faces a stern employment situation, an official with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security said.

China will stick to that policy for years to come, the official surnamed Hu told China Daily.

An underground market for employing foreigners still exists in some cities in China.

"We have been keeping close watch to curb the problem, but some situations are seeing it worsening," Hu said.

Hu said the main cause lies in some Chinese's impression that foreigners are more capable than domestic employees.

"To save costs, they employ some foreigners without governmental permission or proper visas," Hu said.

Except for senior experts, statistics indicate that about 60,000 foreigners from about 90 countries and regions are working as secretaries, teachers and chefs in China.

Most of them are from Japan, the United States, South Korea and Singapore. In Beijing and Shanghai, there are about 20,000 and 30,000 such general foreign employees respectively.

Yao Jing, a Chinese working in a Beijing-based Sino-American joint venture for one decade, said he and his peers were not threatened by foreign job-seekers because the job market for expatriates is continuously shrinking.

"The multinationals are localizing their staff in an effort to both lower costs and capitalize on those Chinese graduates returning from studying abroad," said Yao.

Yao said there are several levels of experts in China. Managers, diplomats and embassy staff and company men are either on mega-buck salaries or in very cushy jobs. Then there are drifters, students, English teachers and foreign experts scraping to make a decent living, maybe hustling for a step up their career ladder.

In the years to come, China will focus its energy on hiring foreign experts and specialists in areas such as information technology, biotechnology, aviation and international trade, amongst others, said the official Hu.

The central government has recently decided its human resources development strategy, which is vital for upgrading China's competitiveness and national strength.

"As part of the effort to implement the strategy, we are co-operating with other ministerial departments to draw up a 20-year national plan on foreign talent," said Hu.

The US-based Environmental Defence chief economist Daniel J. Dudek suggested that China needs to introduce more foreign environment experts during its sustainable development.

"As China continues its rapid economic growth, the nation is also changing not only the size of the environmental challenges it faces, but also their nature," said Dudek, who is an environmental expert employed by the State Council.

For example, in many large cities, vehicle tailpipes are replacing industrial smokestacks as a chief cause of air pollution concerns. While industrial emissions are still very important, they are combining with vehicle emissions to form higher concentrations of pollutants like tropospheric ozone or "smog."

But traditionally, environmental management experts have focused on controlling emissions from one sector or another, but today's more complex economy requires integrated solutions.

"Developing more comprehensive solutions requires both air quality modelers and legal experts to develop an understanding of both the physical system and the institutional mechanisms to improve the situation," said Dudek.

The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA), the highest ranking among the different institutes for talent introduction and management, said the introduction of talent from abroad has become particularly urgent since the government believes that competition among different countries in the 21st century will focus on this precious resource.

Su Guangming of the department of regulations and liaison of SAFEA, said many central government departments need a large number of professional foreign experts in addition to the departments of provincial governments. According to Chinese experts on talent introduction, one expert from a foreign country is equivalent to sending 20 Chinese people to study abroad. According to the State Statistics Bureau, there were 250,000 foreign experts working in China in 2001. Besides there were 190,000 other experts from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Long-term experts occupied 42 per cent of the total, while short-term ones made up the remaining 58 per cent. To date, SAFEA has established co-operative relations with over 300 government organizations, international institutions, prestigious universities and non-governmental organizations in more than 60 countries and regions.

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