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Job fairs for foreigners grow more competitive
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The state arm of China that recruits foreign experts to the mainland is hot on the trail for more foreign job seekers. But this time, the bar has reportedly been set much higher.

An American teaches in a school in Quanzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province. Many Chinese schools and companies are now requiring applicants to have Chinese language skills. [Photo from Quanzhou Evening News].

An American teaches in a school in Quanzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province. Many Chinese schools and companies are now requiring applicants to have Chinese language skills. [Photo from Quanzhou Evening News].

Expatriates who have impressive academic credentials and professional qualifications are increasingly sought-after in the Chinese job market, said organizers of the annual Beijing Job Fair for Foreigners, which was held on April 16. The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs has sponsored the event since 2005 and event organizers said the job fair has helped many expats living in China meet their career goals.

Organizers said more skilled overseas professionals are needed to fill in mid-senior level vacancies in the mainland's fastest growing sectors.

Li Hai, project manager of the job fair and an official with the State administration, said the fair this year offered a more diversified range of jobs though higher requirements have been established for the applicants' academic achievements and professional qualifications.

"This year's event has more high-level jobs available than in any of the past events," Li said.

He said previous fairs were dominated by English teaching positions at schools and language-training organizations, but this year 80 percent of job openings are for jobs outside of that field.

"Applicants who are more likely to land an ideal job in China at present are experienced professionals with backgrounds in engineering, finance, marketing, law, biology and medicine. This trend may continue in following years," Li said.

According to the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, there were more than 200,000 foreigners staying in Beijing last year. The report said that 90 percent of the foreigners have bachelor's degrees or higher. Most of them have jobs in business services, manufacturing, computer and software engineering.

"English skills are no longer the competitive edge they used to be for foreigners seeking jobs in China. To be more attractive, applicants need to show more professional qualifications to demonstrate their competency," said Xue Ruiqi, director of the Shanxi Overseas Talents Liaison Management Center, which participated in the job fair.

"We are in desperate need of foreign experts in (industries of) work safety, clean energy, solar power, environmental protection and eco-agriculture. We need to introduce overseas talents to help us realize Shanxi's sustainable economic development," Xue said.

Li said as more domestic companies expand overseas, they are in need of highly educated and senior professionals who have working experiences in both China and abroad and are able to adapt to multicultural workplaces.

He said the fair this year has brought more than 70 companies with 1,000 job openings. At least 1,500 candidates met face-to-face with prospective employers, he added.

"The global financial recession, coupled with the rise of opportunities in China, have brought more people from abroad to seek their fortunes in China," Li said. "But Chinese employers are becoming increasingly picky about the qualifications held by foreign candidates, as competition in the expatriate job market becomes fiercer, especially in Beijing and Shanghai."

He said many companies are now requiring applicants to have Chinese language skills.

According to event organizers, 90 percent of attendees this year hold a bachelor's or master's degree while 8 percent hold a doctorate or post-doctorate degree. Eighty percent of the attendees came from the United States and Europe.

Many job seekers said the growing number of highly qualified applicants has made it more challenging to find a job that they want.

"Salary is not my top consideration," said American Amy Derr, 25. "The most important thing for me is to find a marketing-related job to gain working experience."

After spending two and a half years in China, Derr can speak fluent Chinese. She has a bachelor's in international relations and is now a trainee at a five-star hotel in Beijing. She plans to return to the US after spending another three years in the Chinese capital.

"The economic development in China is amazing, so I came here not only to learn Chinese, but also to accumulate experience because more American multinational companies value working experiences in China."

New college graduates, however, said it was tough to get a job through the fair.

"There are lots of openings, but mostly for people with at least three years of working experience. So it's hard for me to find a job other than for a language tutor," said Lisa Allen, 22, who has a bachelor's in computer science and arrived in Beijing in early February. "I may take a teaching position, but I also hope the job fair can help me find an internship in an IT company."

Li said he is busy preparing for a similar job fair in Guangzhou on April 23 to offer job opportunities to foreigners living in the Pearl River Delta region.

"The growing number of foreign experts did not necessarily add pressure to the domestic job market. On the contrary, they have come to fill vacancies that we Chinese are unable to take and bring more advanced technologies and concepts to us," Li said.

(China Daily April 18, 2011)

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