Leadership Insights

Foreign Worker Boom in China

March 18, 2018



The number of foreign workers legally employed in China has reached a record high of more than 150,000 expatriates, almost twice as much as three years earlier, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. This major rise has been due to a lack of qualified local workers in both the private and public sectors, and the expansion of multi-national companies to China.


The majority of these positions have been found in the information technology (IT) and management sectors, including HR (human resources) and finance departments. The expatriates are most often located in Shanghai, where it is estimated 40,000 foreigners work. This city is known to have offices for more than half of the global top 500 multinational companies.


According to Alan Zhang, leader of Mercer’s Human Capital Product Solutions business in China, “expatriates are paid two to three times higher than their local counterparts”. However, with the number of educated and highly qualified Chinese workers rising, these foreign worker figures may not stay quite so high.

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