China Country Profile - Working Practices

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Working hours

China has a five-day week with working time theoretically limited to 44 hours. In practice, many people work longer hours, often without overtime payment. Business hours are typically Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm with a two-hour lunch break from 12 noon until 2pm, although this varies from company to company.


The minimum annual leave entitlement in China starts at five days per year and increases to 15 with length of service. Although this may sound like significantly less than in other countries, public holidays help to make up the difference.

Public holidays

China’s public holiday schedule is announced by the government just before the turn of the year, and can be notoriously complicated. Officially there are seven public holidays, usually totalling 13 days of leave per year. For some holidays a weekday is given as leave but employees must work at a weekend instead. Local and national observance days also feature in the schedule. Some observance days, such as Women’s Day, Youth Day, Children’s Day and Army Day, are marked by holidays for a particular demographic, while others are celebrated without time off from work.

Public holiday dates


New Year: 1st January

Chinese New Year: 8th February

Qingming Festival: 4th April

Labour Day: 1st May

Dragon Boat Festival: 9th June

Mid-Autumn Festival: 15th September

National Day: 1st to 7th October

Visas and eligibility to work

The vast majority of foreigners visiting China need to obtain a visa. There are several categories of visa and costs vary depending on your nationality and the duration of your stay. Some categories must be applied for before travelling while others can only be obtained from inside the country. Consular staff will usually advise you on which category you should apply for. If you plan to stay for over 6 months, you will also need a health certificate authorised by the Chinese embassy. Every foreigner living in China has to register with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) via the local police station on arrival, although for tourists hotels normally complete the registration process for you. 

Visa laws for travel to Hong Kong and Macao can be less strict, but you still need a visa to work there, so make sure you ask your employer what is required. Further documentation is also necessary for foreign nationals intending to travel to Tibet and access to the region is tightly controlled so the correct paperwork is absolutely essential.

For more information on applying for Chinese visas, visit the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.


Taxation in China is based primarily on Individual Income Tax (IIT), and the tax year runs from January to December. Income is taxed on a progressive scale of between 3% and 45%. For foreign nationals living in China, there are three categories of IIT depending on the duration of your residency:

  • Under one year: Tax is paid on income within China only
  • One to five years: Tax is paid on income within China and income brought into the country
  • Over five years: Tax is paid on total worldwide income

The tax status of people who also live in another country is determined by the number of days spent in China each year. For more information, visit the State Administration of Taxation website.


In 2011 China moved to change the law for the provision of pensions to foreign workers. A new social insurance tax was introduced in exchange for access to pensions, although the minimum qualifying period is 15 years. The change was met with scepticism by many expats who already had access to a pension scheme under the terms of their employment. For more details, visit the ExpatBriefing website or speak to your employer to find out what kind of pension scheme they offer and how it applies to you.


Some foreign nationals living in China are entitled to state benefits including occupational injury compensation, medical insurance and maternity cover, while many businesses also offer such benefits to their staff. Check with your employer for more information.


Historically China had a reputation for limited or poor support for disabled people. Recent reforms have seen greater emphasis on equal opportunities for disabled workers, but there is still less legal protection of the rights of disabled workers than in some western countries.

Careers in China

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