The Rise of The Asia-Pacific As The Place To Go For Business-Minded Expats


China and India are now home to eleven of the top 30 most dynamic cites in the world according to the City Momentum Index (CMI) – compiled by international professional services firm, JLL.

With Bangalore (India) in top spot, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) in second place and Shanghai (China) in fourth, how has the implementation of technology and innovation in these cities helped each country grow its economy and attract business-minded expats to this region?

Thriving economies

 According to data collected by the Financial Times, Ho Chi Minh ranked as Asia-Pacific’s top city for ”jobs created” in the second half of 2016, by creating 13,692 jobs. Bangalore came second, by creating 13,101 jobs, and Shanghai third with 10,419 jobs. The rate of job creation and number of jobs created, reflects how fast each city is growing, and one factor which makes them attractive to expats.

 JLL’s 2017 City Momentum Index analyzed 42 variables across 134 cities. These variables were grouped into three areas: two that reflect strengths for short-term changes and one that determines longer-term economic sustainability.

With Bangalore being regarded as the second fastest growing startup ecosystem in the world and Ho Chi Minh City considered as a “high potential” city, it is clear that these cities are developing quickly in a short period of time which could partially explain why they ranked so highly.

Increasing business opportunities

In Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru, expats looking to find work can find plenty of opportunities in the city’s major sectors which include IT, biotech, pharmaceuticals, aeronautics and consumer electronics. Home to more than 35 percent of all the IT companies in India, this progressive city is a desirable destination for tech savvy graduates and businesses alike – both homegrown and international. It is also recognized as India’s “Silicon Valley”, and as such, is considered one of the most westernized, progressive, and developed cities in the country and region.

Meanwhile, since the Enterprise Law which was passed in 2000, over half a million private businesses have set up in Ho Chi Minh City, which could be enticing for expats looking to start up their own business. Employment in the oil and gas sector in Vietnam is also growing, due to the rise in oil production, creating opportunities for expats who specialize in this sector of work.

In fact, Vietnam has maintained oil production volumes between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels per day since 2000, making it the third largest oil producer in South East Asia. Other than oil and gas, Ho Chi Minh City’s main industries include sea food processing, mining, agriculture, construction, tourism, finance, and trade.

Ho Chi Minh City open stock no attribution

And, in China, Shanghai is ranked as the sixth most influential financial center in the world. The city offers a range of industries including business management and marketing, engineering, accounting and finance, and IT. Being the second busiest port in the world, Shanghai is recognized as being the crucial factor in the construction of the city, as well as aiding the development of industries including the domestic and international trade sectors.

With the construction of airports, railways, highways, subways, ports, bridges, commercial and residential buildings, one of Shanghai’s most popular employment industries is the architectural sector. In other words, there is a lot of opportunity for expats with skills and experience in finance, architecture and civil engineering.


Expats may find any of these countries and cities something of an adventure to begin with, but they should also know how important it is to take care of the practical side of living abroad. Preparing for a move and making sure things like visas are in place is of course critical, as is making sure children can attend good schools and that the right type of healthcare can be accessed. Language barriers and different cultural norms need to be understood and navigated too.

Visas and employment

To get a business visa in Vietnam, expats may need to gain official clearance from their employer or sponsor. Once gained, it allows for multiple entries into the country and lasts up to one year. To get a visa that will allow you to work for longer, expats may need to apply for one through the Department of Labor, Invalid and Society. After three years, this visa expires and they will have to reapply for a renewal permit.

In India, expats can apply for a business visa or an employment visa before arriving. Business visas are more suitable for expats who work on behalf of a foreign company instead of a local employer. These visas allow for multiple entries and are valid for up to six months. Employment visas are better suited for expats wanting to work for a local business or organization or to do volunteer work.

In China, there are many different types of visas, but to get a work visa, expats may need to complete a work permit application and be sponsored by a locally registered company in China. Usually expats will need to live and work in the same location as their sponsoring company.

Language barriers

Although English is widely spoken in Vietnam, the Vietnamese language – spoken and written – bears no resemblance to the European family of languages. Simply trying to guess what someone is saying, or what something means, even in simple everyday situations such as reading a menu in a restaurant, will be incredibly hard if not impossible.

India is home to a huge range of languages and dialects, but one of the official languages is English, so English-speaking expats will have little trouble being understood. Even though English is widely spoken in China, it is not the dominant language. Instead most Chinese citizens speak Mandarin or Cantonese, and as with Vietnamese, the written form of the language will be indecipherable to Westerners (used to the Roman alphabet) without training.


The general standard of healthcare can vary greatly from country to country and in-country. Consultations, types of treatment, levels of service and expertise may also be starkly different to what Western expats are accustomed to.

In India, for instance, reusing needles and syringes may still be a common occurrence in hospitals, doctor surgeries, and dental facilities. As such, patients may be at higher risk of contracting blood borne diseases and viruses including HIV.

In Ho Chi Minh City, while expats can expect to find a good standard of healthcare in many private hospitals, the standard may be inconsistent or lower in rural areas.

Shanghai has many modern international private hospitals, which provide excellent standards of care and have English speaking staff. Although, the cost for this standard of care may be considerably higher compared to public hospitals. Expats should also be aware that they may be offered treatments and therapies that would not be classed as orthodox by Western standards.

Shanghai open stock no attribution

For these reasons, among others, it may be worthwhile for expats to research the types of international health cover that are available. Having health insurance in place – not just travel insurance – may help reassure expats that medical care could be accessed as required wherever they choose to live.

Next stop, Asia-Pacific!

So, whether it’s the allure of Bangalore’s high-tech industry, the spirited startup culture of Ho Chi Minh City, or the allure of Shanghai’s standing in the global finance industry, it’s not hard to see why business-minded expats may want to move to Asia-Pacific.


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