Rebecca Bustamante, President
managers are taking their rightful place at the top of the international
It used to be that executive positions of top multinational organizations
were tightly controlled in a top-down manner. International managers would
be sent from the home office to country offices throughout the world. They
would then spend the next three or four years dictating company operating
policies to local staff, whose performance was measured by how well they
complied. There was little opportunity for Filipinos and other
"locals" to aspire for a senior management post within their own
country, let alone outside it.
A revolution in leadership democracy has overthrown this cozy dictatorship.
Localization is all the rage and most global companies now desire to promote
local managers to the most senior positions, including the once-untouchable
ones like Head of Finance. Global managers have concluded that Asians are
well suited to lead other Asians.
Live the Expat
the clear trend toward localization of most senior roles in the Philippines
and throughout Asia, there continues to be strong demand for expatriate
is especially so in high-growth sectors such as engineering, hospitality,
business process outsourcing. Employment growth rates in many industries
have been so strong that senior managers from abroad are still needed to top
up local supply. In certain sectors, expatriates still deliver a perception
of prestige that seems to be in never-ending demand.
Despite the continuing demand, the nature of the expatriate relationship has
drastically. Traditional expat packages that provided for luxurious housing,
schooling for kids and flybacks to the home country are being eroded.
Absolutely everything is negotiable.
The trend has created a fast-growing class of people called "local
expats." These are defined as non-Asians who choose to live and work in
Asia for the simple reason that
they like it here. Local expats work at close to international incomes but
pay most of
their own personal costs.
Most people in Asia, and especially Philippines, still think expatriates
earn more than they do but the fact is that most of these differences have
been minimized. In locations like Singapore and Hong Kong,
equal-pay-for-equal-work has been a reality. In countries like ours, the
situation is still evolving. Across Asia, senior local managers in high
growth sectors like business process outsourcing and engineering have seen
relentless salary increases and many now earn as much as any expatriate
could ever hope for.
up, moving out
the same time that Filipinos and other Asians can now run operations in
their own country, they are also being asked to run operations in other
countries as well. Indians, Filipinos and Malaysians all have the same
opportunities to gain experience that only expatriates used to have.
Going one step further, some multinationals are expanding the country
to handle more than one country. The reason behind this is that most
countries in Southeast Asia are economically small. Dividing time among two
or three countries
provides a realistic return to the employer and a much bigger opportunity to
So, it seems the day has finally arrived when expatriates are no longer an
absolute necessity. But, we shouldn’t worry about them too much. They will
still be around for
a long time to come — if only to keep the seats warm until us locals show
want their jobs.
Rebecca Bustamante is president of Chalre Associates, an executive search
and management consulting firm active throughout Asia-Pacific.
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