Chile's economy – one of the largest and most stable in South America – is attracting expats from far and wide.
It does have a few challenges, including the diversification of its copper-dependent economy and eliminating a glaring wealth inequality. The mineral-rich mines have long been the bedrock of the country's economy, but as the market continues to contract it has made moves to support other sectors.
Job market in Chile
Santiago, the country's capital and commercial hub, has a few thriving industries, particularly its financial, computer technology and electronics sectors. The city is also the country's centre for industry and manufacturing.
Multinational companies from all over the world have set up shop in the country. Expats planning on working in Chile may find that a company transfer to one of these business giants, or a similar institution, is the easiest way to find employment.
Agriculture and mining are important primary sector industries in Chile, but the financial and tourism sectors also provide good opportunities for eager expats. Alternatively, new arrivals with an entrepreneurial spirit can set up a business in Chile, but they must do their research into the types of business possibilities and the demand for it. Freelance work done remotely is yet another option.
The job market is restricted in a few ways, though. Employers value qualifications over experience, especially degrees from the US and the UK. Some types of work are also limited to Chilean nationals and have strict requirements for foreign degrees, such as in medicine. These types of jobs require certain Chilean accreditation, which could be a lengthy process – expats should seek the advice of a relocation company and legal professional to help with this.
Expats in certain industries and with senior-level positions in large companies are likely to get by with just speaking English, while many others find work in the English language sector. Having CELTA or TEFL accreditation is always helpful to teach English as a foreign language, and those interested in teaching in the formal education sector will need a teaching degree.
Otherwise, the job market often favours those who speak Spanish – good news for those expats relocating from other South- and Central American countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Haiti. There are conflicting views towards people from foreign countries, but the job market remains competitive.
Learning Spanish is not too difficult for new arrivals who put in the effort: there are many opportunities to take up classes and private lessons, while expat children may easily absorb the language at school.
Finding a job in Chile
Expats can find a job before moving to Chile or once they arrive. Some may say it’s better to have a job in place before moving, mainly because the employing company often helps process visas and work permits, and it allows for negotiations of expat contracts. Also, the fact that expats know what their salary will be gives them a chance to budget for the cost of living in Chile before arriving.
That said, others argue that searching for a job after arriving in Chile makes finding employment not only feasible but significantly easier. One reason is that many jobs may require employees to begin work as soon as possible, and only starting the relocation process amid this slows things down.
What’s more, personal relationships are crucial in Chile. Knowing people, having connections and networking are key in doing business and finding work. In fact, job opportunities are often not even published because the hiring party would rather recruit through personal recommendations. One’s network, also known as pituto in Chile, is fundamental. So, being in Chile, meeting people and making connections ease the job-seeking process, especially for those who are extroverted, social and ready to meet and make business acquaintances.
Nevertheless, online portals, such as LinkedIn and Trabajando, are worth a look for job-hunting expats.
Work culture in Chile
Spanish is the official language in Chile, but many skilled workers and mid-level managers speak English. Knowledge of the local language can open doors to work opportunities, and even those fluent in European Spanish may need to take a few Chilean Spanish lessons to learn some of the regional nuances. Not only does speaking Spanish help expats communicate and do business, but it also shows their respect for local Chileans and their efforts to get to know the people and culture.
Above all else, though, expats working in Chile may be most taken aback by the long working hours. Although office hours on paper seem standard, from around 8.30am to 6pm, they are often extended. The Latin American lust for life doesn't stop locals from putting in well above the 45-hour workweek required by law, one of the highest in the world. The long working hours and commute home afterwards may be something to get used to.