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The Chinese labour market is quite open to expatriates. Foreign expertise is required in many fields from catering, tourism and management to finance, trade and education. A basic knowledge of Mandarin is preferable, but not necessary to be hired by a Chinese company, but you will need to commit to studying the language at least at a basic level to feel comfortable working in China.

You can look for a job in China on the spot, once you have already arrived in the country or reach out to the companies in your region operating in China.

In terms of geographical distribution of jobs in the country, Beijing, Guangzhou (Guangdong province in general), Shanghai and other large cities like Harbin offer many job opportunities and attract many foreign workers, as well as a selection of amenities that may be hard to come by in smaller cities.


Only a Z visa allows you to work legally in China. While some companies may agree to hire you off the books on a business or tourist visa, this is a breach of law and, if discovered, you will be deported.

Labour laws

Conditions of employment vary greatly depending on your status in China. If you have a work contract with a foreign firm, you will be subjected to the legislation in force in that country; if you work for a Chinese company, you will be subjected to the Chinese labour legislation in force. The legal working hours in China is 40 hours per week. Nevertheless, working overtime is often required without bonus or compensation. Workers in China are granted 5 days of paid annual leave per year (if they have worked for the company for at least a year). Plus, there are 11 paid public holidays including Spring Festival, Autumn Festival, National Day, etc..

With that said, workers employed in foreign firms are often granted one or two additional weeks of holidays as part of the “expatriate package”. You will also get days off on “western” holidays like Christmas, New Year, Thanksgiving, etc..


Minimum wages are set locally and may vary from one city to another, sometimes even from a city area to another. If you are working for an international company in China, you will receive a salary comparable to western standards. If you are working for a Chinese company, your wage might be lower. In all cases, you must sign a written employment contract within one month after taking office. Everything should be clearly notified in your contract (salary, holidays, relocation packages, air tickets provided by the company, bonus options, overtime pay, if any and so on).


When thinking over a job offer, make sure you check whether the stated salary is calculated before or after tax. Foreign employees need to pay income tax in China. You can get your tax deductions back when you leave the country.

Company culture

Working style and corporate culture in China are quite different from those in the West. Differences can be found in everything from relationships with colleagues to daily routines.

A typical working day in China lasts eight hours with most companies offering one and a half hour for lunch and a 20 minute break after four in the afternoon. Afternoon napping is very common in China and most offices would dim the lights and have some “quiet time” after one in the afternoon. At four in the afternoon Chinese office workers would have another break often accompanied by a serving of sweet treats or fruit.

The notion of efficiency is also different from what it is in the West. While Westerners are used to working under tight deadlines and are motivated to complete tasks quickly, working in China is more slow-paced, with a lot of emphasis put on patience.

Connections (or “guanxi” in Chinese) play a very important role. Getting to know your supervisor, manager and CEO is considered the key to further success in the company.

A lot of companies have strict rules regarding company information: profits, marketing strategies, goals are often discussed only between higher management. Certain enterprises forbid the use of USB drives or access to local social media while at work.

 Useful link:

The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China
China Income Tax Calculator

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