By Rachael Chang
THE battle for talent has come to Singapore, with 18 China companies teaming up to hold a first-ever job fair here to lure China-born professionals to return home to work.
Among them were heavy-hitters such as the Bank of Shanghai and the Shanghai Stock Exchange, offering 117 high-level positions that pay up to $250,000 a year plus perks, including housing allowance.
The jobs offered by the companies from Shanghai were in fields such as risk assessment and wealth management. Many required at least a master's degree.
About 1,000 people were at Suntec City recently for the fair, which was the third stop by the companies in their global search for talent.
Their previous stops were New York and Toronto, both of which have large numbers of China-born professionals.
Applications for the jobs close at the end of next month.
According to Jobs DB, which organised the fair, 50 per cent of those who attended the Singapore fair were locals.
Many of these, however, went away disappointed.
As Singaporean Sean Tan, 43, an IT professional who was at the fair, said: 'The companies' strategy is to take back their own people.'
One telling sign he cited was that every company he approached had registration forms asking how many years an applicant had been living outside China.
Another was that job seekers were asked by recruiters if they were 'native' Mandarin speakers.
Mr Tan applied for positions as an IT officer and a chief information officer. 'But I don't think they will make an offer to me,' he said.
He was drawn especially by the perks. For instance, the chief information officer job at the Bank of Shanghai offered a housing allowance of about $2,500 a month, and a daily allowance of $49.
These allowances were on top of the basic pay of $10,000 to $12,000 a month, said Mr Tan, a senior IT manager whose work takes him to China almost every month.
Singapore human resource companies interviewed said that in the eyes of China companies, Singaporeans have the edge over others because they are bilingual and well-travelled.
They also make a better 'cultural fit' than Westerners, said Mr Dhirendra Shantilal, senior vice-president of Asia-Pacific for Kelly Services, a job search company.
Another factor is their honesty, said managing director Paul Heng of Next Career Consulting.
Singaporeans are sought for jobs involving money - such as a financial controller post - because 'money is safer in their hands', he added.
For Beijing-born Zhang Yan, the job fair was a golden opportunity to suss out career opportunities which he said he could not find here.
The 28-year-old business consultant has been in Singapore for seven years and has a doctorate in engineering from Nanyang Technological University.
His reason for wanting to go home: 'Shanghai is rising in the world. The economic balance is changing to mainland China.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.