Treaty of Nanking

Boom time for skilled workers in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Shanghai's job market remains buoyant despite slowing economic growth at home and continuing concerns over the impact of the euro debt crisis on global economies.

'A lot has been written about the possible impact of the European crisis on China,' said Simon Lance, regional director for recruitment consultancy Hays in China. 'But we haven't seen a slowdown in the sectors in which we are operating.'

Lance said in sectors such as life sciences and banking and finance, Shanghai employers were forced to pay more and offer a wide range of perks and benefits to attract top talent.

Because of the shortage of qualified candidates in the city, a chief financial officer (CFO) employed by a multinational company can now expect to earn up to 2 million yuan (HK$2.46 million), up 25 per cent from last year, according to Hays. That matches the pay a CFO could expect in Hong Kong, where employers are offering an average HK$2.8 million, unchanged from last year.

'We are also starting to see a number of overseas trends around benefits coming into the China market,' Lance said. 'This reflects a generational shift from the belief that work comes first towards a desire for a better work-life balance.'

An increasing number of homegrown companies are therefore now offering inducements such as gym memberships, flexible hours and guarantees of no overtime as they compete with international firms to recruit high-calibre employees and gear up to establishing Shanghai as a global financial centre by 2020.

About one-third of international companies are expected to raise wages for their mainland Chinese operations by more than 10 per cent this year, according to a Hays survey released earlier this year.

Many Hong Kong employers, in contrast, are shedding staff and reducing payrolls to weather the downturn triggered by the euro crisis.

The rising wage costs in Shanghai have not been welcomed by American businesses operating in mainland China, with 66 per cent now having to pay more to keep skilled workers, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. But it said American companies had accepted the increased payrolls as the price they had to pay to consolidate their positions in the world's most populous country.

But the outlook for jobs in the production, marketing and sales' sectors of export-oriented businesses was less buoyant because of the euro crisis, warned Beryl Chu, executive vice-president of Chicago-based executive search firm DHR International. 'There will be lay-offs in these sectors,' she said.

Meanwhile, fresh local graduates are benefiting from the clamour for their services, and in some cases have demanded 'unreasonable' salaries.

Hong Lingyun, an executive with headhunting firm Joinlink Consulting, said she was stunned when a youngster with very little work experience told her he was looking for a job with a monthly salary of 10,000 yuan - more than double the average income of a Shanghai employee.

'It's difficult to describe the local job market nowadays,' Hong said. 'Skilled workers are badly needed and find it easy to get a well-paid job, but unqualified candidates complain they have difficulty finding a job.'