A lack of qualified personnel in both the private and public sectors has seen the number of foreigners working in the country soar.
Expatriates legally employed in the country last year almost doubled compared with three years earlier, reaching a record high of more than 150,000, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
The rise is mainly seen in overseas-funded companies and local offices of multinationals as they expand rapidly in the coastal areas as well as big cities in the inland provinces.
The most sought-after positions include those in information technology (IT) and management, including human resources and finance departments.
In Shanghai alone, where more than half of the global top 500 multinationals have a presence, an estimated 40,000 foreigners work.
The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs is also hiring foreign experts every year.
"Foreigners with managerial and professional skills are welcome to work in China," said Gao Lin, an official with the ministry's employment department, adding that more are coming after the country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.
Lack of talents to fill new positions is a major reason behind the influx of foreign professionals.
The IT and telecommunications sectors, new materials and energies, high-tech and financial industries are particularly in need of foreign talent, said Wang Tongxun, a senior expert with the Chinese Academy of Personnel Science under the Ministry of Personnel.
"It means greater opportunities for both domestic and overseas talented people," he said. But since most domestic jobseekers cannot meet the requirements, foreigners fill the breach.
For instance, senior personnel in finance and accounting, like finance controllers, are urgently needed, Mercer Consulting said in a mid-March report after it co-sponsored a survey with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
But most senior accounting positions are taken by expatriates, it said.
Key positions such as marketing managers of overseas enterprises and foreign-funded hotels, and top posts in banks and manufacturers are also mostly taken by foreigners.
For these jobs, "expatriates are paid two to three times higher than their local counterparts," said Alan Zhang, who leads Mercer's Human Capital Product Solutions business in China.
"Most expatriates used to take up senior managerial or senior technical positions. But since 2004, there is an increasing trend to assign expatriates at middle management and professional level," he added.
(China Daily April 4, 2006)