The following report provides an update on the key trends that we have observed within the Accounting & Finance job market in China. It identifies emerging themes across various industries and details the major factors impacting hiring and talent movement.
China’s economy expanded 6.9% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2017, which is a fraction higher than the 6.8% growth achieved in the fourth quarter of 2016, and the strongest rate of expansion since the third quarter of 2015. Faster rises in industrial output, retail sales, fixed-asset investment as well as a surge in fiscal spending were contributing factors.
With the overall economy gaining momentum in the first quarter of this year, China’s labour market picked up as a result, providing job seekers with more opportunities compared to the same period last year. China’s unemployment rate in the first quarter of this year also supports this having decreased from 4.02% in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 3.97% in the first quarter of 2017.
Although the number of jobs in China continues to increase, some sectors such as Internet and eCommerce continue to outperform others like energy and mining.
Accounting & finance professionals with skills in financial planning and analysis continue to be highly sought after, especially those who are commercially savvy, able to provide strategic input and contribute to business growth, build instant rapport with their business partners, and experienced in working within commercial departments.
To improve costs and operational efficiency, employers are searching for talent with broader skill sets within accounting & finance, to better equip them at handling additional responsibilities if and when the need arises.
Accounting & finance teams are increasingly investing in technological solutions that streamline and optimise processes as well as leverage big data. As a result, professionals with experience in data analytics, particularly data mining, extraction and interpretation, will have a competitive edge over those without such skills. Statistical modeling, financial analysis and planning, budgeting, forecasting and operational analysis are also some of the key skills providing real value to organisations.
Data from China Internet Watch suggests that, in the first quarter of 2017, eCommerce accounted for 12.4% of all retail spending, thanks to consumer spending habits shifting from traditional brick-and-mortar stores to online. With the pace unlikely to slow down anytime soon, companies will continue to seek professionals with strong backgrounds in eCommerce and digital, who have worked for FMCG and retail companies, in order to support new digital related initiatives.
China’s outbound M&A grew in 2016 by an astounding 246%, which is nearly 3.5 times the previous record set at the end of 2015, according to a PwC report. This high activity is creating demand for accounting & finance professionals with relevant experience, including due diligence and post integration.
Domestic, fast-growing, start-up technology companies are increasingly offering high remuneration packages, with stock options, to accounting & finance professionals who fit the mould, especially those with demonstrated IPO experience.
China is experiencing a talent shortage within the accounting & finance profession, with the inflow of talent within the sector at just 20%, which is significantly lower than the average level for other functional areas, hovering at 30%. A recent report by the CFA Institute indicated that the inflow of accounting & finance candidates is not meeting domestic demand. In such a contested environment, it is of the utmost importance that organisations adopt effective and robust staff acquisition and retention initiatives, together with other human resources management strategies.
SALARIES & BONUSES
Accounting & finance professionals received salary increments of around 5 to 8%, on average, in 2017.
With talent shortages prevalent across most sectors, candidates with specific skill sets and experience have better bargaining power when it comes to negotiating remuneration.
According to the World Bank’s latest World Economic Prospects, the world economy is projected to grow at 2.7% and China at 6.5% in 2017. China’s economy will achieve a stable performance while securing progress thanks to its continuous supply-side reform that centers on the improvement of productivity. This is great news for those seeking new roles.
More Chinese enterprises are expected to enter overseas market with sharpened competitiveness, increasing the country’s green field investments. Chinese-headquartered conglomerates will therefore be creating more jobs within the investment destinations space in China.
We expect more hiring activity in the second half of 2017, however, the competition amongst candidates to land their ideal role will remain fierce.