Business opportunities, better living conditions are seen as key attractions on Chinese mainland
Major cities on the Chinese mainland are attracting a growing number of immigrants from around the world, although the rate is still very low compared with major international metropolises such as Singapore, Sydney and New York.
Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, said the number of people born in foreign countries who are working and living in Beijing had increased by more than 50 percent from 2000 to 2013 and now account for about 0.5 percent of its total population.
"The figures are similar in Shanghai and Guangzhou," Wang said on Thursday during the presentation of the World Migration Report 2015 in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.
The population of immigrants in major international cities ranges from around 20 percent to more than 80 percent, according to the International Organization for Migration. In Sydney, London and New York, for example, immigrants account for more than one-third of the population.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore ranked highest in the percentage of immigrants, with 34.7 percent of the labor force and 38 percent of the country's permanent resident population.
Wang said major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Dongguan, Guangdong province, will continue to attract a growing number of foreign talent and immigrants in the years to come.
In addition to vast business opportunities and improved living conditions, many Chinese cities have introduced preferential policies and rewards to lure foreign experts and technicians to settle there, Wang said.
"The mainland cities that are undergoing urbanization drives need to attract foreign talent to help support their economic growth," he added.
The government issued a document in February to lower the threshold for Chinese green cards, or permanent residence permits, making more foreigners in different industries eligible to apply and in a simpler way.
Jill Helke, director of international cooperation and partnership at the International Organization for Migration, said economic development and globalization mean new economic centers and developing countries are attracting more immigrants.
"The immigrants have contributed to the economic construction, social and cultural development in local cities," Helke said.
Gao Xiang, spokesman for the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, said: "Compared with before, the contribution of foreign talents' work in China has been recognized significantly.
"This shows the importance we attach to talent and helps to build Chinese attractiveness to global talent."
Wang urged the government to establish a special immigration department to help handle the influx of immigrants. Currently, immigration affairs on the mainland are managed by the Ministry of Public Security.