My best tips to land a tech job in China as a foreigner

Finding a job as a Software Engineer in Europe with a few years of experience is still relatively easy. How does the situation look like in China? I try to answer this question by looking at the economic situation, the working style in Chinese companies as well as necessary skills of the applicant.

My best tips to land a tech job in China as a foreigner
Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Especially in Europe the amount of news increases that show a less bright future regarding the share of people able and allowed to work. In fact, in the past years I barely had issues to get into contact with recruiters and have interviews. Many companies are looking for Software Engineers - even after layoffs. I must admit that the situation for engineers who are looking for their first job will look different though.

How does the situation look like in the big tech hubs in China? Would it be easy to find a job as a foreigner in a tech company? This is what I want to discuss in this post. Keep in mind that the following is based on statistics as well as personal observations, discussions and experience.

The economic situation

Let's start by comparing at the economic situation between Germany and China. On the one hand, in Germany there is an upwards trend of open positions to be filled over the last 15 years. On the other hand, a downwards trend of unemployed people exists. When we look far into the future it becomes clear that until 2060 there will be 11,7% less people employable compared to 2023.

Those numbers do not look very appealing. In fact, to keep the current amount of employable people somewhat stable, Germany would need to attract a massive amount of 400.000 workers per year from elsewhere. Of course, those statistics are overall and cover every industry and every area of Germany. However, having those numbers in mind, I think it becomes clear that the future will be an employee market.

In China the situation looks very different. Many (well educated) young people are unemployed (~20%). Some try to get by working as delivery drivers which is a very stressful, partly dangerous and low-payed job. On top of that, you are easily replacable.

When we arrived in Shanghai in March 2023 - directly after most of the Covid restrictions had been lifted - many office buildings looked empty, almost abandoned. My colleagues see that friends have been layed off massively in different Chinese tech companies. They are worried about the future, about what could happen when they loose their current job. Some of my Chinese family members try to keep their heads down at work, although people are playing tricks and put blame on others when things are not going according to plan. Just to make sure that others are being fired before them.

How Chinese tech companies work

Before we can ask ourselves if it would be possible to get a tech job in China, we must get a better understanding of how those (big) companies work from the perspective of a Software Engineer.