The Real Cost of Working in China
A professional headhunter admits misgivings in sending talented people over to China. He suggests that some invisible costs be considered when people make the move.
The Real Cost of Working in ChinaBy Sherry Lee
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 587 )
Andy Yang, managing director at the Ozific International Group, is one of Taiwan’s top executive headhunters, having taken on succession planning for cross-strait enterprises, dispatching around one hundred of Taiwan’s top talents each year to work in China. The following are his thoughts and insights:
I’ve spent the past few years working on corporate succession planning. No matter what type of corporation we deal with, these days all of them require experience with work assignments in Asia, and going to China at one point or another is nearly unavoidable. So I am conflicted in that, I feel I should tell outstanding job seekers aspiring to become management professionals on the international stage, ‘Sorry, but not matter how much you may dislike a place or a country, you’re going to have to go there at one time or another. The only differences are which enterprise you end up at and how long you stay.’
No matter where in the world you look, you see the same trend, like New Zealanders flocking to Australia for work, or Mexicans looking for employment in the U.S.; they go wherever the best economic conditions can be found.
Taiwanese people cannot get too accustomed to a familiar environment or with familiar things. You’ve got to swallow your pride and work up the courage to fit into the local environment, no matter how much you might dislike the place.
Another conflict for me is that Taiwanese job seekers are truly hampered, in that they tend to passively accept whatever information they get from enterprises.
True Cost of Moving to China
My company sends around 100 senior executives off to China every year, and around 70 to 80 percent of them do not take their families with them. It is rare for people to take their families with them to China, whether working for international or Taiwanese companies.
Work at foreign enterprises is tough, and the balance between life and work is not as good as one would imagine. Furthermore, taking care of families is even less of a consideration for Taiwanese companies. All they think about is, “Wow, you’re going to be sent to work in China. Great! How much does that pay?” “How many trips can you make back and forth each year?” Plus, they mandate that bookings for return trips to Taiwan are made during the low season, and only with certain designated airlines with which they have arrangements.
I don’t dare follow up on people’s family and marriage situations after they go over to China. On the one hand, there is a line between public and private matters, so I only hear what others volunteer; but on the other hand I also fear for people’s families. Why, you ask? Because I feel like an assassin.
I have been involved in placing people in jobs in China over the past few years, much of the time while hiding my face. I want to help people get the best career development, but I never really considered whether that development gives them a good life or happiness.
If I had to think about the happiness of someone’s entire family in every case, I probably could not continue doing it.
Maybe thinking about these things shows that I’m starting to get older. I’ve experienced a lot of turmoil the past few years, and am less and less happy with cases in China. I feel like an executioner, pushing some really good people from Taiwan over the strait.
Before, in looking at professionals making the jump to China, we only looked at opportunities and benefits, but in the future these people might want to look at the costs in terms of things like lifestyle, maintaining a marriage, children’s education, and health, which should all enter the equation. It’s not just abot wages; taking these previously invisible costs and coming up with a tangible figure is both fascinating and potentially helpful to people in making their choices.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman