Shanghai is China’s leading economic powerhouse, the centre of its financial and commercial activity, and the country’s most prosperous city. It is also Chinas biggest port and its technology hub. It, thus, comes as no surprise that the city offers plenty of work opportunities in a variety of fields for both locals and expats. In fact, Shanghai is the number one destination for foreign professionals in China and has been continuously voted as the best city for expats.

However, if you are moving or planning to move to Shanghai for work, it is best to get acquainted with the city’s economy and labour market in advance to increase your chances of landing the right position.


Shanghai is China’s most prosperous city with the municipality’s GDP reaching upwards of 3 trillion yuan ($469 billion). The city’s economy is still heavily based on the local industries: steel, machinery, electronics manufacturing, textiles, and more. However, the services sector has been rapidly developing as well making Shanghai an important financial centre home to country’s main banks, the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), the Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE) and the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE).

The city is also one of China’s main tech innovation bases and the host of the some of the major annual events like CES Asia (Consumer Electronics Show), the premier event in consumer electronics technology.

Labour market

But what does this translate into on the job market?

Shanghai is the number one choice among expats in China when it comes to work opportunities. And this means two things: you will find a wide range of career options here as well a lot of competition.

While the number of fields foreigners can build careers in is generally limited across China, job options in Shanghai extend way beyond ESL teaching.

The services sector remains the most prominent field where expat professionals are involved.

As the banking and financial sector is opening up to foreign companies, the demand for expat professionals in the industry is also growing.

Those specialising in advertising, marketing, and sales are always in demand ‘ but note that most of these positions also require a knowledge of a second language in addition to English (German, Spanish, French, etc.). Your success in the field will also depend on your country of origin and the prospects of trade between China and the region in question.

Shanghai’s popularity with expats has opened up a lot of career doors as well: there are many industries catering specifically to foreigners living in the city including media outlets, B&R, the hospitality sector, and others.

The typically ‘foreign’ jobs in the city include English teaching as well as occasional modelling and acting ‘ and these are sometimes used by newly arrived expats as a trampoline to other career options in different spheres. There are plenty of international schools, language programs, and training facilities that are always in search of native English speakers. Plus, there are also many big universities in Shanghai offering more advanced positions in the education sector.

The most prominent universities include the University of Jiao Tong, the University of Science and Technology of Eastern China, the University of Shanghai and the University of Donghua, among others.

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