2012 Report on China’s Language Services Industry (Summary)

Posted on Mar 13, 2013 in Industry Insights

2012 Report on China’s Language Services Industry


Published by: Translators Association of China, Institute of China Translation Development

Summarized and translated by: Lin Lin, lin@mts.cn


2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Translators Association of China (TAC). While TAC was celebrating its 30th anniversary and hosting the national conference, Institute of China Translation Development and Beijing Foreign Studies University joined TAC for the first time to release “2012 Report on China’s Language Services Industry” and “2012 Report on China’s Cultural Translation and Publishing Development”. These two reports seek to reflect the current state and future development of the translation industry in China. “2012 Report on China’s Language Services Industry” is summarized below:


Data Sources

The Analysis and implications of this report are based on data collected from these two sources:

1. Registration information of Language Service Providers (LSPs) in China from State Administration for Industry & Commerce of the People’s Republic of China

2. A survey conducted in April 2012 on 104 key LSPs in China

In addition, officials from State Administration for Industry & Commerce, National Bureau of Statistics of China, LSPs, statistical analysis experts and translation industry experts were invited to analyze the data and finalize the report.


The Development and Growth Trend

Looking at the increasing number of the companies, there are three stages in China’s Language services industry development:

1980 -1991 Infancy Stage: From 16 to 767 LSPs, increased by 43.6% each year, small base.

1992-2002 Primary Stage: In 1992, the total number of LSPs in China reached 1432. In 2002, it reached 8179 at an annual growth rate of 26.8%.

2003-2011 Rapid and Stable Development Stage: In 2003, the total number of LSPs in China reached 10546 LSPs. In the end of 2011, the number reached 37197 at an average annual growth rate of 18.4%.

Language services industry is deeply intertwined with every industry and sector including finance, culture, IT, etc. It has become the fundamental support industry for global economy. There are approximately 1.19 million professionals working in language services industry in China. Professional translators take up 53.8% of the total amounts. China translation industry achieved annual output value of approximately 125 billion RMB in 2010, 157.6 billion in 2011, at an annual growth rate of 26%.


Some of the key findings

1. Company Nature

The majority of LSPs in China are privately owned Limited Liability Companies, with a percentage of 80.9%. 2.4 % are foreign invested (including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan funded), 4.8% are public corporations.

2. Company Scale

There are large numbers of LSPs in China, but they are mostly small scale invested; thus, they are not competitive in the market. 75.9% of the LSPs have a registered capital less than 500,000 RMB, only 1.6% have over 10 million RMB. Since most companies are small, there is high mortality rate in the industry.

 3. Regional Distribution

The LSPs in China presents uneven development, the main geographic features are:

1)     Centered in metropolis

2)     Majority is in East Coast areas.

3)     Concentrated in highly internationalized areas. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Jiangsu are the top four provinces and cities on the list, taking up 69.8% of the total LSPs. Beijing and Shanghai alone consist 55.6% of the total amount of LSPs nationally. There are more than 12,000 LSPs in Beijing;

4)     North China have the most LSPs, 37.8% of the total number; Northwest China has the fewest LSPs, only 3%.

The uneven regional distribution of LSPs represents the unbalanced economic development of China. North and East China have the fastest growth rate, especially Beijing and Shanghai, due to the service outsourcing industry development in recent years.

4. Fluctuation

The fluctuation of the company numbers is a reflection of how national development influences language services industry. From 2000 to 2011, two rapid growth phrases emerged. The first phrase started from 2000 to 2003 at an annual growth rate of 32.9%, as China joined WTO and opened wider to the world.

The second phase of rapid growth emerged from 2008 to 2011, at an annual growth rate of 21.1%, due to Beijing Olympics and Shanghai World Expo.

From 2004 to 2007, the growth of emerging enterprises slowed down, mortality rate reached a peak with 38.1% annually.

The fluctuation of the growth rate reflects the immaturity of China language services markets, which is lacking scientific market research and analysis.

Furthermore, enterprises with 1 to 6 years history are in danger of closing down, the third year especially. From 2000-2001, out of all the companies that went out of business, companies that went out of business within the first six years made up 88% of the total. Due to the fierce competition in the market, companies that are not able to survive usually withdraw from the market after three to six years.

5. Employee Structure

According to the research, employees in language services industry tend to come from a young age group. And the majority is bachelor’s degree holders.

The structure of employees is as: Professional translators consist of 53.8%, 15.5% are technical engineers, 13.9% are management staff, and 2% are based overseas.

23.9 % of the employees have master degrees or above. Bachelor’s degree holders take up 58.8% of the total population, junior college graduates take up 11.6%, junior college degrees or below 5.7% and returnees take up 8.5%.

Age group structure of full time professional translators: those under 30 year old take up 50.2%, Age group of 30-45 take up 35.6%, 46 years old and above are 14.2%. The majority of the full time professionals tend to come from a young age group under 45 years of age.

6. Scope of Services

Research shows that the services include: 71% translation and localization, 22% interpreting, 7% other services including training, multilingual consulting services, translation tools and software development, linguistic technology development, etc.

Language pairs of Chinese to foreign languages surpass foreign languages to Chinese by 54.4%. According to the volume o f business, the most translated languages are English, Japanese and French, regardless it is Chinese to foreign languages or foreign languages to Chinese translation.

Client Structure: foreign capital enterprises 21.5%, state owned enterprises 19.7%, government and public institutions 17.3%, private enterprises 13.1%, joint ventures 11.3%, individuals 7.6%, nonprofit organizations (NGOs) 4.3%, others 5.2%.

Over the past three years, the average capital that LSPs invested in translation technology, CAT tools and software development took up 14.79% of the total turnover.

The common CAT tools are TRADOS and SDLX. Besides, YC CAT, WordFast, DejaVu, Catalyst also share some markets. A number of LSPs use their own independently developed CAT tools and management software.

7. Certification

Due to low threshold and small size of LSPs in China, quality certification is not commonly acquired by LSPs. Only a small number of large LSPs passed ISO, EN 15038 or CMM.

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE
Multilingual Technologies Inc.