Home-court advantage

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/22 18:28:39

Expats still on the fence even as more Chinese job seekers flock domestic companies over multinationals

Chinese and foreign job seekers look for different things when thinking about where to apply for a job. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Pierre Do from France, a PhD student majoring in hydraulic engineering at Tsinghua University, is certain that he wants to work in China after he graduates. His only challenge is deciding where. Should he apply to a Chinese company or to the Chinese branch of a multinational?

"The local companies in China are developing rapidly in recent years, the salary, welfare and the management style are getting better, so local companies and multinational companies are both good choices," Do said. "I would be happy to work at whichever company suits my major, one where I can develop my skills and contribute."

As a foreign job seeker, Do's job hunting logic is a somewhat different from his Chinese counterparts.

Data released by the Shanghai office of the international consultancy Universum suggests that as local IT and Internet companies increasingly gain favor among Chinese students, multinational companies enjoy fewer recruitment advantages in China, a recent China News Service report said.

The Stockholm, Sweden-headquartered Universum received assessments of 233 employers from 79,346 students majoring in business, engineering, science, the social sciences, the humanities, law and medicine.

In the survey, 18 percent of the Chinese students surveyed said they were willing to work for a multinational, a decrease from 25 percent in 2016 and 28 percent in 2015. The proportions were even lower among science and engineering majors - only 16 percent of engineering students and 14 percent of science students wanted to join a multinational after graduation, according to the report.

"The students said multinationals were less stable than their domestic counterparts," the article quoted the report as saying.

The rise of local companies

This year, the top five most attractive employers for business majors were Alibaba, Huawei, Bank of China, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, while the top five most favored by engineering students were Huawei, Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and Microsoft.

Alibaba and Huawei were also attractive to other majors. Alibaba was the second most attractive employer among science students and the top among social science and humanities students.

Huawei took the first spot among science students and was the second most popular among business students and social science and humanities majors. Tencent also ranked high among various majors.

Chinese Internet companies are well known for competitive compensation packages that come with highly stressful workloads. But the survey found that despite this, Chinese students are attracted to their entrepreneurial spirit, creative working environment, teamwork and corporate social responsibility.

The students value "a sound support for future career development" when it comes to choosing an employer, the report said.

"In recent years, through our surveys and research, we've found an obvious change. That is, China's indigenous IT and Internet companies are becoming increasingly popular, while the competitive advantages multinationals used to enjoy are no longer that noticeable," explained Wu Gang, the vice-president of Universum's Asia-Pacific region.

Domestic Internet companies are not the only ones gaining popularity among job seekers. The percentage of Chinese students who want to work for state-owned enterprises saw an increase in the number of willing job seekers, from 18 percent in 2016 to 25 percent this year, a June 20 report on news portal Jiemian.com said.

"It's because state-owned enterprises provide more stable payment, and the companies shoulder social responsibility," wrote the report.

The number of students who want to join a start-up company or start their own company also increased, the Jiemian.com report said.

What expat job seekers want

Although domestic companies are becoming more attractive to some job seekers, they still have a long way to go in attracting more international talent, according to Shang Weidong, a senior consultant at jobsitechina.com, a website that acts as a bridge between foreign job seekers and local employers.

"According to my observation and experience in working with foreign job seekers, domestic companies don't have that kind of allure with foreign job seekers," Shang said. "More often than not, my clients, the foreign job seekers, would say that they want to go to famous multinational companies in China, like Apple and Google."

According to Shang, although the salary offered by domestic companies is increasing and is sometimes higher than that of international companies, expat workers still have their concerns.

The top factors that influence what kind of businesses foreigners want to work for are salary and the company's management style, according to Shang.

"Sometimes foreigners don't agree with Chinese companies' management style," he said. "Unlike most Chinese job seekers, who care more about a high salary, foreign job seekers also care about whether the company's management style is formal and modern enough to give them enough space to develop their career and whether the company would respect their opinions."

Foreign job seekers think more about the company's  management ideology and working environment, whether the management is stable enough, whether the company is democratic and the employees can freely express themselves, and whether the boss would take the employees' opinion and interest into consideration, he explained.

"Chinese companies often see the boss as the sole decision maker. Whatever the boss says is right, and the employees need to follow, and most foreigners can't accept that," Shang said.

Chinese companies still have a long way to go when it comes to attracting foreign employees. Photo: Li Hao/GT

The drawbacks

Do agrees that there might be some advantage to working for a multinational company for some foreigners, but he thinks he could work in either of the two environments.

"I think multinational companies are more open-minded than local companies. There are also more foreigners, so it's easier for foreigners to adapt," Do said.

"But I think I can integrate into either company. I can integrate into a Chinese company because I am very interested in Chinese culture, and since I worked in several companies before, I can also integrate into other multinational companies."

The highly stressful working environment, huge workload and overlong working hours common in domestic companies are some of the things that turn foreigners off. While Chinese job seekers attribute the high-stress environment to the company's entrepreneurial spirit and think that as long as the money is good, it's fine, foreign job seekers worry that they can't have a work-life balance in such a space.

Tejeswara Rao Pedada from India currently works for Sony Mobile Communications Inc, a multinational company, as a software developer. He has been working in China for three years and has witnessed some of the changes.

"The Chinese Internet companies have been rising in recent years. They are innovative, and they pay well, but I also often hear that their staff work long hours," Pedada said.

"Some companies require that their employees put work first and don't have a separation between work and life. For example, even after work, they would still think it's OK to call you to do some extra work. But foreigners prefer to have a decent pay with a good work-life balance, which is already a culture in many multinational companies."

Also, according to Pedada, since he is not good in Chinese and can't communicate with his colleagues in Chinese, he can't adapt to local Chinese companies.

Other job seekers take their future development into consideration and believe that if they work in a multinational company's Chinese branch, it would be easier for them to make the transition when they go back home.

Rick Deckard from the UK is currently doing his master's degree in media in Beijing. He will graduate in September and plans to work in China for a couple of years before going back to the UK.

"I prefer to go to Western media or film companies in China. If I can do great a job and climb to a higher level in this company, I assume it would be easier to relocate to the same organization or other companies back home," Deckard said. "After all, multinational companies are more recognized back home."



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