Region Reduces Its Reliance on Expatriates

An executive expatriate package in Asia has traditionally included a housing allowance, school fees, perhaps even a car with a driver. But for many, that ship has now sailed, say recruiters in east Asia – and anyone who would like to climb on board needs to move fast.

“We are increasingly moving away from expatriates and have been all the time I’ve been in Asia,” says Dan Chavasse, regional managing director in Asia, for recruiter Michael Page.

Based in Hong Kong for 13 years and presiding over more than a dozen offices around east Asia, he says the change is noticeable every year and is a trend that has sped up with the global financial crisis. “It’s getting to the stage where you’re quite surprised when someone tells you they’ve got a housing allowance,” he says.

“Western expats just aren’t in massive demand any more over here. Most of us who are here got our jobs by being moved here by our companies. It’s unusual for a client to come to us and say we’re looking to hire a Brit or an Aussie or a US citizen.

“Much more in demand are what we call Asian expats: Malaysians, Singaporeans and Taiwanese moving into places like mainland China because they speak Chinese and have a much better value-add than a westerner.”

In Asia, until a few years ago, expatriate recruitment in financial services and beyond was soaring. The biggest problem for places such as Singapore was increasing the number of places in international schools fast enough to meet the demand for the expatriates’ dependants.