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Employment conditions in Shanghai and Eastern China

In the eastern coastal areas, market demand for finance professionals is quite strong, particularly in Shanghai, a hub for large manufacturers and chemical companies.

In the wake of recent accounting scandals and other negative publicity affecting some foreign multinationals on the mainland, many companies are adding headcount to their internal control and compliance teams. Professionals with knowledge of tax and treasury issues, auditing, internal controls and financial planning and analysis are highly sought-after.

In the financial services industry, the market is candidate driven, meaning there are plenty of jobs and not enough professionals. Those who speak English well and have solid connections among Chinese banking and securities regulators are highly valued, both by multinationals and by domestic companies.

Outside of finance and financial services, the job market for marketing (including digital marketing and e-commerce) has been strong in the past two years, with roles in business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing especially in demand. As marketing budgets shift from offline-to-online (O2O) media, demand has risen sharply for people who can use social and interactive media as effective marketing channels. Evidence of the need for such professionals can be found in the fact that, on 11 November 2014, also known as Singles Day, B2C website Tmall registered a daily transaction volume of over RMB70 billion, up from RMB50 billion on the same day last year.

Meanwhile, business-to-business (B2B) companies are increasingly trying to build employer brands, investing more in public relations, marketing and corporate communications. In fact, the PageGroup Greater China business doubled its industrial marketing team of consultants in 2013 in response to this trend.

In the retail space, online channels are booming. This is a national phenomenon, yet traditional retail remains strong as well. Larger shopping malls and department stores continue to be built in second-tier locations; lifestyle brands are solid and new international brands are jostling to enter the market. These brands are localising middle and senior management teams as a way of controlling costs and getting closer to their end consumers.

“Luxury brands have been affected by China’s crackdown on conspicuous consumption among government officials,” says Weiwei Xu, a Director in Michael Page’s Shanghai office. “Most hiring in this sector is for replacement roles rather than new headcount. ‘Lifestyle’ luxury brands represent the exception to this trend.” Occupying a niche between high-end luxury and the mass market, they include brands like Tory Burch, Michael Kors, J.Crew and Coach. Many of these companies are just now entering the China market and creating new positions as they do so.

Behind retail is the sourcing industry, which has lagged over the past two years as rising domestic costs have pushed procurement officers to seek cheaper alternatives in Bangladesh and Vietnam. While some firms may be returning to China to raise the quality of production, hiring has not returned to the levels seen two years ago.

Finally, the employment market for property and construction jobs has softened in Shanghai as well as other first-tier markets owing to government building curbs. While the residential, commercial/office, retail and industrial spaces were all adding jobs in 2010 and 2011, recent activity mainly involves hiring replacements.

However, opportunities continue to be had in second- and third-tier cities, thanks to the development of factories and office parks. Warehouses and order-fulfillment centres are sprouting in the interior in expectation of increasing logistics business in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone and in line with China’s booming e-commerce market.

For full details see the 2015 Greater China Salary & Employment Outlook report.