Would my husband find work?

My husband, 2 year old son and I currently live in New Zealand (in husbands home town). My husband has a recent diploma in Mechanical Engineering, with around 13 years work experience in a similar field. Our main question is, would he be able to find work in Shanghai if we moved there?

We actually met in Hong Kong several years ago when we were young and child-free! He was on an 18-month rugby contract, so wasn’t actually “working” in a “real” job. I am British and worked as a teacher for a big international school, and loved it.

My salary would be much better in Shanghai than it is in New Zealand. So I’m happy to apply for a teaching job again, and be the main bread winner, but hopefully sponsor my husband and son to join me. Pretty sure this is possible. But we want to know if he would find work out there.

My husband doesn’t really mind what work he does...he’s not expecting to earn big money like the bankers, etc....just ‘half decent’...he’d love to set up his own ‘handyman’ business (which I think he’d be excellent at...he worked as a plumber for 10 years but never sat the final exam so doesn’t have the piece of paper but does have excellent references, and he has single handedly renovated our entire house in NZ!) or do something related to sports (he’s played top level rugby until this year, is a qualified surf-lifeguard and enjoys all sports) but would obviously love to also work within his current industry (mechanical engineering within a petro-chemical plant).

We feel we’d be able to save more money out there (with my increased salary, gratuity, ) and have a better lifestyle - IF my husband worked out there too. But would my husband be able to find work, and what kind of jobs do you seriously think he would be offered?

Any input from current people in Shanghai would be appreciated!


Welcome to China. Well,  actually know ALOT about finding work in the ME field n China.  I have good news and bad news.

I myself an a degreed ME from the USA.  I was working in a senior capacity in the USA going back and forth to China and back. Over time,  met a girl and fell in love. We decided to move to China for good.  We got married and I have been living in China ever since.

First Arrival
When I first arrived, I had a great deal of difficultly in finding work in my field. All the ME positions required full language fluency, AND be a degreed ME. I did not have that.  Heck, I still can only speak Chinese with a terrible accent. To get work, I did what all expats do.  I went for the "low hanging fruit".  I went and got a teaching job first.

Getting Equipped
Since I had a degree, and was from one of the five preferred nations (USA, Canada, Australa/NZ, UK), all I needed was a ESL diploma.  I got mine online through a USA college.  It was 50 hours of class and cost me around $300 USD. Then, to get experience, I tutored some people in the USA for a while.  That gave me the experience.

Finding Work

I had no problem getting work as a teacher.  Eventually, I became the "Director of Teachers" at our branch office. I liked teaching, and still do. But, it's not for everyone.  It is hard work.  To meet my salary expectations I had to take on full-on 12 hour days on the weekends, and aggressively market my skills as a teacher.  I did fine.

The entire time that I was teaching, as much as I liked it, I felt that I was not utilizing my full abilities.  Other teachers came and went.  They were often much younger than me (in their 20's) and ended up making the same salary that I was making more or less. Though, I was making more with all my client load. They would come teach, and then leave China for an adventure in another nation. I felt that I could be making more if I were working in my field.

I was wrong.  English teachers, in China, can make from 10K RMB/month to 25 RMB/month depending on the city and the work load.  If you work in a 2nd or third tier city you can have a great and fantastic standard of living, though your salary is only 10K/month. It depends where you live.

Engineers in China make from 5K/month to 20K/month depending on the skills and situation. So if I were to leave my teaching position and compete against Chinese engineers I would be a speaking disadvantage, and I would make much less money.

What I wanted was to be employed as an expat-engineer or expat-manager.  Here, a foreign engineer is hired for their experience and knowledge over a native Chinese engineer.  As a result they are paid much more.  Salaries vary from 30K/month to 70K/month with bonus systems put in place. The problem is that I had been out teaching for a while and could not easily go back into my field.

What I ended up doing was take on QC and Marketing work (in addition to teaching) for my wife's family businesses. I did what every I could do.  I helped design piping for ships, I helped make brochures.  I troubleshooted electronics, and even physically checked stocks for quality.  I did everything that I could.  SO while I was doing all of this, and teaching, I was still looking for work.

Eventually, I found work through friends of friends.  I found work through old colleagues who hired me, and now I am working as the GM of a company. It was a hard and long slog.  I am not going to sugar coat it. You need to work, but it is possible.  Just don't give up and be ready to do whatever it takes.

I want you to achieve your dream. I think that if you want to come to China and build up a life, it is indeed possible.  But you will need to start teaching to get an income stream flowing. Then while you have money going in, look for work.

I would consider you for an engineering position, if one opens up in Zhuhai.  Please contact me privately via email and I can give you details.  Please, Don't get your hopes up too high.  I have no openings at this moment.

Thanks for your honest advice. On another note, do you have any contacts or know of any recruitment agencies that my husband could contact before we even seriously consider this move to China? Ideally we’d want him to be set up with a job before we arrive there.

I would suggest he use LinkedIN and use their job search option.  That would be the best way to proceed.  Good luck.

@vannrox provided a concise reply to your post but I would also add the following points. China is not short of skilled workers in all fields and I think it is generally accepted that companies (which must be registered to employ foreigners) will only employ foreigners when the position cannot be filled by a Chinese applicant. Foreigners need a "special skill" to find employment easily and this usually limits the choice to language teaching.

Beware of offers from prospective employers/agencies to provide the necessary work/residence permit after he arrives in China. This usually means they are not registered and the permits will not be forthcoming. Working illegally is quite serious and can result in fines, deportation and ban from entering China again.

Yes, I must agree with Mr. @zhangfu.

This website if filled with all kinds of people wanting to work and live in China. Often they reside outside of China and want to move to China.  I don't blame them.  China is awesome. So they post things like "I live in India, and want a job in China.", or "I am from Italy, but I speak great English.  Can I get a job in China?", etc...

That's all well and good. However, China can be choosy. China is filled with hard-working, industrious, intelligent nerds who will do what ever it takes to make a life, support their family and be good strong upstanding citizens. They will not tolerate people who will not have something to contribute.

Me? I hold three university degrees in engineering, 11 design patents, and nearly 40 years experience in factory and industry management, and even I have a difficult time finding work. I am not nearly good enough.  In China, YOU MUST HAVE A SKILL. This is a skill that will not displace a Chinese worker.  In China it's "Make China Great Again" (A "play on words" for the Trump motto "Make America Great Again".)

So to all the wanna-bes out there. China will welcome you if you meet the following criteria;

1. Are a professional. This means a university education. If you do not have one, you are not considered a professional.

2. Have a skill. That means something that can be used in China, and that will not displace a Chinese person. (Driving a taxi, no...Babysitting a

3. Willing to learn and adapt. You must learn the Chinese language.  If you plan on coming to China without learning Chinese, you are doing yourself and China a disservice.

4. Obey the laws. You want to backpack all over China and work odd teaching jobs here and there... you are NOT welcome.  You come here, and you work.  If you want an easy street go to Thailand.

5. Be Humble. Fact number one. You need China, and China does not need you. Accept this reality.

That all being said, and said harshly, it is all true. I really get weekly messages from all sorts of people wanting to move to China.  They say all kinds of things.  But no matter how different the situation, or the story, or the excuses, or the need. It is all the same.  Sorry, I am unable to help anyone except in the most basic way.

Please understand this; China is NOT the answer. You are.  Find what you need and work hard to achieve it.   It does not need to be in China. It just needs you to fight for what you need.

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