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White collar professionals from China compete in global job market

Posted on May 5, 2011
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SINGAPORE : Chinese white collar professionals are becoming more competitive in the global job market.

The world’s factory is gradually shifting away its forte from low end manufacturing roles to those that require productivity and knowledge-based skills.

And analysts say that as more on the mainland become fluent in English, countries in Asia can benefit from a supply of top-level expatriate Chinese talent at competitive costs.

It is no secret that Chinese workers are a force to be reckoned with.

From low wage blue collar roles, China has been fast moving up the labour value chain into white collar roles that require more productivity and knowledge-based skills.

Similar to the economic history of Singapore which started off as a manufacturing base, China’s progress into value-added services will likely be accelerated.

Alvin Liew, Economist, UOB, said: “I think increasingly you do see that production centres are slowly moving out to Southeast Asia’s more developing economies. And China itself, having been the workshop of the world, (will also be) moving up the value chain. And that is happening in many of the production factories in China itself.”

In a sign that large multi-national companies are riding on this trend “of higher skilled workers at competitive wages”, Ford Motor company announced plans last month to double its white collar work force by 2015 in what is now in the world’s largest auto market.

Bernard Lee, Visiting Associate Professor(Practice), Singapore Management University, said: “Let’s just say that the top 1 percent is extremely well educated. For a country with 1.3 billion people, that’s 13 million people. And if you have 13 million people who are extremely well educated, if the opportunities in manufacturing is not exactly their cup of tea, sooner or later, this group are going to look for ways to move up the value chain. That’s just how things are going to go.”

English speaking standards are also catching up, which means that the Chinese office workers are raising the bar of competitiveness against their global and Asian counterparts.

Pan Zaixian, Director, Robert Walters (a specialist professional recruitment consultancy) said: “The good universities whether its Beida, Jiaotong, or the rest, the English competencies for those in their 20s are even better than those in their 30s. So…in terms of talent, the new emerging talent from China is not as handicapped as it used to be.”

And multinational companies can count on a large pool of university graduates who are hungry for jobs.

Bernard Lee, Visiting Associate Professor(Practice), Singapore Management University, said: “I would rank the Chinese graduates very highly. We really see some extremely talented Chinese graduates in every way, and as competitive as Singapore graduates, if not more competitive.”

Experts says that similar to India’s export of IT professionals around the world, countries can benefit from expatriate talent from the mainland in areas such as science and technology.

Alvin Liew said: “As Chinese white collar workers get more proficient in the English language it will be easier for them to cross over the barrier not just to operate within the confines of the Chinese economy but to bring their talent cross border, for example to financial centres in Asia like Singapore, Hong Kong, and bring themselves further offshore towards the European markets even to the US.”

04 May 2011

Stella Lee

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