By Dezan Shira & Associates

Managing human resources is a thorny issue for some foreign-invested entities in China, particularly those who have demanding deadlines or are less familiar with the HR environment. Employee administrative procedures – which include areas such as management of recruitment, work permit applications, labor contracts, and payroll and tax declaration – can slow a project down or create operational risk.

Labor dispatch is an important option for foreign companies in China that require a low cost and flexible hiring process. Whether it is a company that needs to staff a short-term project within a demanding deadline, or one that needs to hire temporary workers to support its business during start-up, labor dispatch proves a top choice compared with other traditional recruitment methods.

A triangular form of employment

Unlike direct employment, labor dispatch has a triangular form of employment relations, in which a host company hires workers from a dispatch work agency. While dispatched laborers work for and are supervised by the host company, they are in fact employed by the dispatch work agency.

The dispatch work agency is the de facto legal entity responsible for the administrative management of the employees. Since dispatch agencies have considerable experience and knowledge of hiring local workers, foreign entities often find that hiring through labor dispatch is flexible, efficient, and cost effective.

Managing temporary workers and headcount restrictions

It is common within seasonal industries and project-based work for host companies to hire temporary workers. Given that direct hiring methods are usually tailored for recruiting long-term employees, it is typically more efficient for managers in seasonal and project-based industries to hire through labor dispatch.

Further, many foreign subsidiaries have headcount requirements determined by the parent company’s employment budget. These requirements can prove difficult for host companies that need more workers to maintain daily operations. Labor dispatch is a solution for  host companies that need to hire more laborers for temporary, auxiliary, or substitute positions in addition to any allocated headcount. Since paying dispatch workers is deemed a service fee, rather than employment expenses, hiring through labor dispatch allows a host company to efficiently recruit more labor while in compliance with the headcount requirement.

Dispatch agencies

Dispatch agencies help save operation costs for the host company. According to China’s newly enacted Labor Dispatch Law, employers should make social insurance payments to dispatched workers in the region where the actual work takes place. This triangular form of employment relations allows for a more convenient and efficient way of paying social insurance, saving the host company time and money.

About the author: Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email [email protected] or visit

Posted by Dezan Shira & Associates