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China – Two snapshots of the market

31 December 2012

China Daily and Channel NewsAsia provide us with two interesting views of the market in China. China Daily reports that while young Western professionals are flooding China to build up their CVs, the tide is turn toward internationalized local talent. According to Charles Gao, Executive Search Services director at Adecco Shanghai: "The market wants more localization. They don't want anyone without China experience because it's a challenge for the company. The Western guys with China experience, it's very easy for them to find jobs here. But it's hard for those without." According to the article that's largely because of a growing number of Chinese who speak English and have international experience. And as the West declines and China rises, more overseas Chinese are returning home.

Briton Mark Henderson, a project manager for a China-EU trade body  believes the employment landscape is changing. "I've noticed in the past year that people with extremely strong language skills and other experience have been unable to find work, so it seems that the job market is getting even tougher…The competition is pretty fierce ... a huge number of extremely well-educated people are looking for work here, including people with family ties in China returning due to the increased opportunities…These guys combining international experience with an appreciation of Chinese business culture and language have a very strong hand in the job market."

"Most qualified and young (Western) people do not tend to stay in China for the long term," Direct HR Shanghai's founding partner Michael Maeder says. Most use China as a stepping stone to get better jobs back home, he explains. "China is now one of the most desired countries to have international experience in, and having this on their CVs and the ability to speak Chinese will likely heighten (their) starting salaries and job titles."

Staying in China long term however is difficult. China offers no guarantees, says Clinton Hendry, who moved to Beijing three years ago to become a university instructor at age 23. He points out that jobs tend to be one-year contracts. Local healthcare is comparatively low-grade and expensive, while international-level care is exorbitant. And the Internet is restricted.

Channel NewsAsia highlight the lengths that companies will go to attract and retain young employees, whom Human Resource experts say are more likely to job hop.  Last year, employee turnover in China was 20 per cent compared to about 10 per cent in Singapore and 5 per cent in western countries. 

According to a survey, nearly 30 per cent of fresh graduates changed jobs within a year. HR experts say it takes understanding to keep them. Lois Freeke, South and East China Director of Kelly Services Professional and Technical Division, said: "Flexible working times obviously is something that people are looking for. Generation Ys are extremely ambitious and they are also very impatient, so I think employee training plans and clearly defined career routes are what people have to offer here." 

Products of the one-child generation are used to being showered with attention and love rather than criticism. At GE China, managers are specially trained to hand out negative feedback with tact. Cheng Jing, HR Director of GE China, said: "They like a lot of feedback. They like a lot of positive feedback. Negative feedback has to be given in a constructive way so they continue to be motivated and encouraged to be better." To provide the frequent engagement desired by Generation Y workers, the company has programmes in place, where senior management staff mentor younger colleagues. They meet at least once a month for hourly chit chat sessions. 

Companies are coming up with more measures to address the emotional needs of young employees. One company arranges for psychologists to come in to give regular talks.A special assistance hotline has also been set up exclusively for its employees and their families, with the number of callers increasing about 10 per cent each year. Other companies also come up with special benefits such as heartache leave for employees who may need that extra time off to recover after a heart break.

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