China’s foreign employees | China Unlocked

For the most populous country on Earth, China’s immigrant population is relatively small. Where do the foreigners living in China come from and where do they live?

China’s total population exceeds 1.3 billion people. There are about 600,000 foreigners, or laowai, currently employed in China, excluding international students.

The chart below shows the major source countries of foreign workers in China.

foreigners in china

The appearance of China’s ASEAN neighbours Vietnam and Myanmar in the top 10 may surprise residents of Beijing and Shanghai who don’t often meet people from Southeast Asia.

Many people from those countries work in the border provinces of south China, such as Guangxi and Yunnan.

The numbers of foreigners from English-speaking Western countries is likely to grow over the next few years as demand for English teachers continues to expand in China.

Where do they live?

Shanghai is the number one destination for incoming immigrants in China, with 209,000 foreign workers according to the latest figures. Shanghai’s status as a business and financial hub attracts immigrants from developed economies.

Unsurprisingly, Beijing is second on the list with 107,000 foreign employees. The capital city is home to a vibrant international community employed across a wide range of different industries.

South China’s business capital Shenzhen comes in third place followed by Beijing’s northern neighbour Tianjin. Completing the top 10 are some of the most livable cities in the country, in this order; Qingdao, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Xiamen, Kunming.

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Guangzhou, in south China is known for its large African population. There is even an ‘African Street’. However, recent reports suggest that population might be declining.

The infographic below illustrates the location of foreign employees by province. China’s coastal/inland developmental divide is well-known and this figure reflects that situation.

foreigners china infographic

As China develops more foreigners will be enticed by opportunities to live and work in the Middle Kingdom. The demographics of China’s international community will undoubtedly undergo significant changes, much like the Chinese population has undergone itself.

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