With the economy in a tailspin, are more companies in Asia sending their expatriates back home? The answer depends on what industry and level position you are looking at, says Lee Quane, regional director of Asia for ECA International.
According to Quane, he does not see a significant increase in repatriations in Asia for employees who are of a senior-level position. “The principal reason is these people are needed in the host location. So they’re very senior people, probably the country managers, the regional directors, et cetera. So even in the current financial situation, they will still be required in the host location.”
However, Quane says who are susceptible to being laid-off are those in junior and middle management employees who were drawn to the high growth and talent shortage of Singapore and Asia in the last few years. “On one hand you’re looking to laying off local staff, you’ll also be laying off expat staff as well. So yes, you would probably see at this level of seniority, repatriations or redundancies will increase.”
But in China, manufacturing plants which were set up by foreign companies to manufacture goods for the home countries have suffered from declining demand. Thus, repatriations among occupations such as production plant managers have seen an increase in places such as Guang Dong, Qing Da and Yangtze Delta, says Quane.
In India, Crown Relocations saw a 31% increase in outbound moves, mostly coming from the banking and construction industries. For instance, 1,000 expatriates in Bangalore have been asked to leave.
However, India’s hospitality, pharmaceutical and telecommunication industry shows signs of stablisation and even growth, as the general approach is a “wait and see” one, says Crown.
And an article by Time magazine, it reported that expatriates in Singapore who have been laid off are no hurry to return back to America or Europe. Speaking to Time, American ex-banker Marc Rudajev says, “This economic crisis is affecting every country,” he says. “But if there is a glimmer of hope anywhere, it’s here rather than in the US or UK.”
Instead, laid-off expatriates are now tightening their belts and giving up items such as country club memberships (a Singapore Island Country Club now only costs $100,000 – a third of what it used to go for two years ago), District Nine apartments and even international schools places for their children.
One winner to emerge from this? Local schools such as Hwa Chong International, which has seen an increase in student enrollment after expatriate parents pulled out from costlier international schools.