When the best job Mikala Reasbeck could find after college in Boston was counting pills part-time in a drugstore for $7 an hour, she jumped on a plane to Beijing in February to look for work.
A week later, the 23-year-old had a full-time job teaching English. “I applied for jobs all over the US. There just weren’t any," said Reasbeck, who speaks no Chinese but had volunteered at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In China, "jobs are so easy to find. And there are so many."
Young foreigners like Reasbeck are coming to China to look for work in its unfamiliar but less bleak economy, driven by the worst job markets in decades in the United States, Europe and some Asian countries.
Many do basic work such as teaching English, a service in demand from Chinese businesspeople and students. But a growing number are arriving with skills and experience in computers, finance and other fields.
"China is really the land of opportunity now, compared to their home countries," said Chris Watkins, manager for China and Hong Kong of MRI China Group, a headhunting firm.
China's job market has been propped up by Beijing's 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus, which helped boost growth to 7.9 per cent from a year earlier in the quarter that ended June 30.
Andrew Carr, a 23-year-old Cornell University graduate, saw China as a safer alternative after classmates' offers of Wall Street jobs were withdrawn due to the economic turmoil.
Carr started work in August at bangyibang.com, a Web site in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. "I noticed the turn the economy was taking, and decided it would be best to go directly to China," he said. Most of his classmates stayed in the United States and have taken some unusual jobs — one as a fishing guide in Alaska.
Some foreigners see China not just as a refuge but as a source of opportunities they might not get at home.
"Having one or two years on your resume of China experiences is only going to help you back in the United States or if you apply for business schools," said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai.
Konstantin Schamber, a 27-year-old German, a business manager for a Beijing law firm, said: "I believe China is the same place as the United States used to be in the 1930s that attracts a lot of people.