Former and current expats discuss the merits of moving to China versus India for better career and advancement opportunities

By Yin Lu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/9 17:08:39

Recent surveys show that both India and China are desired destinations for would-be expats eyeing career and income advancement. Photo: IC

The question "As a foreigner, which country is better to work and live for several years, China or India?" and a few other similar questions comparing the two countries have sparked considerable interest on Quora, a popular knowledge-sharing website.

American Richard Bourne's answer is the most upvoted with 22,000 views and more than 300 people agreeing with him.

"It depends on your tastes and what you would be doing," he wrote. "I would go where I had the better career prospects, and only you can know that."

Bourne, 34, an engineering manager, speaks from his four years of living in China. His current job in the US requires him to work with teams in India and travel there often.

Both China and India are attractive career-wise, according to HSBC's Expat Explorer Survey 2017. Both offer greater career and income advantages with an average gross personal annual income of $170,970 and $176,408 respectively, greater confidence in the local economy and a strong sense of personal and financial stability.

When considering moving overseas, expats like Bourne often weigh the benefits of the move against what they may miss out on in terms of their family, career advancement at home and friends. Metropolitan invited former and current Beijing expats to share their insights on whether China's offerings put it heads and shoulders above other countries in the region.

More room to grow

The reason Bourne started his journey as an expat is similar to most - to embark on a new adventure.

"I had spent a lot of time on my studies and wanted a sort of a break, and something different," he said.

Bourne had a keen interest in East Asia and went to South Korea to teach English shortly after he got his degree in aerospace engineering.

But teaching was not a good fit. So, in 2007, he took a job at a small software development firm in Beijing. At that time, Bourne didn't speak Chinese and was not on an expat package. His expat package came a few job changes later.

The road from a newcomer to a well-paid professional is not easy, but it is not a problem for young expats.

"People like me and my friends [those] who were in China working, not teaching English, were there to explore and learn about the world, something like continuing education," he told Metropolitan.

The top three reasons for moving to China, according to the Expat Explorer Survey, are "for a new challenge," "to improve my job prospects" and "to improve my earnings."

Restaurant owner and photographer Winnie Sun from Vancouver, Canada, just arrived in Beijing. She is in the capital for a few weeks, doing an internship in legal affairs at an international company in the field of education.

"China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has one of the most enriched histories. To be able to work in Beijing is very special," she said. "It's been quite fascinating to see the work culture in China. It's different from what I am used to but very effective."

According to Sun, a lot of her friends want to come to the East, especially China and Thailand. "I think Asia is becoming a place of popularity because of its rapid economic growth and also because of its culture and long history," she said. "At least, my friends would rather come to China than go to say, Los Angeles or somewhere in the UK."

China or India?

Between the two of the world's most fast-growing economies, putting preferences for the climate, food and culture aside, Bourne personally recommends India for people who become expats for career advancement.

Bourne said that India offers "a chance to get in on the ground floor and start a business that has more room to grow."

"In many ways, China is 15 years ahead of India. But India is developing increasingly rapidly," he said.

He added that in India there are still dozens of cities outside of the top cities like Mumbai and New Delhi with millions of people and room to grow. Also, there is less competition at international companies, and with less senior people there, you get more responsibility.

Sun thinks otherwise. There's a tremendous opportunity for people in her field of expertise in China.

"There's a lot of work to be done in China, and I'm sure expats can find something of their own because the foreign perspective is always a good thing, in law at least," she said.

On top of the promising economy and her personal connection with Chinese culture having been born in the country, the convenient life, which is made possible through advanced technology such as mobile payment and the sharing economy, is also an attraction for young minds like Sun.

She also finds China safer. When Sun traveled to India on a school trip at the age of 15, something happened to make her feel unsafe, and that memory has not left her.

"This isn't to put a stereotype or generalization on the country, but it's a very unwelcoming atmosphere compared to China where people are very friendly," she said.

What's the pull factor?

"India and China are very different. But in some ways, what might motivate someone to go to either country is similar," Bourne said. "It is about adventure. In societies that are transitioning so fast, there is always change, always a possibility for career advancement."

Joel Senecal, the Beijing general manager of CRCC Asia, a company that has been providing international internships and programs in Asia since 2006, agrees.

"For a lot of the students who come to China, their decision revolves around their career development. [However,] I spoke with a few students, and they came because they saw it as an adventure. Not all of them came for practical purposes," he said.

The agency has brought more than 7,000 international students from the US, UK, Australia and other countries to China.

Compared to students who have their eyes on other countries, those coming to China are usually fascinated with the culture and have done more research on the culture and economic landscape, he said. They also tend to dig deeper into the possible job opportunities available in China.

Senecal estimated that about 30 percent of the internships turn into a longer commitment with the interns being offered a long-term job or exposure to potential career opportunities in the future.

However, according to Bourne, there's been a pendulum of coming and going among more senior expats, particularly in Beijing.

"A lot of my friends, even some of my native Chinese friends, moved to Shanghai or had to move there and work a few years before they went back to Beijing," he said.

Bourne left China at the end of 2010 to attend graduate school. Although he lives in the US, he still travels to China every year and always looks out for career opportunities.

"Beijing was certainly exciting. It could have been a great place to cultivate a career. But as one ages, that becomes less and less important," he said.

Some of his friends from Beijing left China to work in India, but eventually returned home to build a family.

Other places in the East

CRCC Asia opened its offices in Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City this year. "When we decided to open our new locations, we looked at the market, seeing how the outlook for economic development is. For instance, if you look at Vietnam, there's a good chance that it will grow fast economically," Senecal said.

He further explained that there's a tremendous amount of interest in going to Japan and South Korea among Western youth, especially those from the US. According to him, a lot of the young students are driven by realistic factors, such as the economy and the potential for personal development, but the country's media presence in their home country is also important.

Despite its new branches in Japan and Vietnam, the agency is not operating in India at the moment. According to Senecal, the reason they "hesitate to do so" is mostly because of logistical issues in terms of current connections with companies on the ground and the expertise of the people they are currently working with.

Based on the agency's assessment of the market, China remains among the top five as far as student interest goes.

"We see a growing interest in cities like Shenzhen (Guangdong Province). I think young people are really attracted to fashionable, technologically advanced cities," he said.

"So getting beyond just the idea of going traveling, I think people are more attracted to seeing how a country like China or India could be more advanced in some ways and try to figure out what they can learn in these countries."

Young people consider multiple factors such as career prospects, technological advancement and cultural aspects when selecting a country to travel for work. Photo: IC


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