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The Rise of Asian Expat
ECONOMY Beyond

The Rise of Asian Expat

It’s a trend that’s linked to the global expansion of Asian companies, which started when the Japanese ventured overseas in the 1980s. It picked up momentum after the 2008 financial crisis after China joined the fray.

“Asian companies are more likely to send staff overseas than Western companies,” says Lee Quane, ECA’s regional director for Asia. “A Western company will probably send a handful of managers and recruit locally. Asian companies tend to send more staff, even at junior level. China is an obvious example but also Japan and Korea. They’ll send senior management, mid-management and even junior management and professionals. Part of that is about communication, but it is also a trust issue.”

Many Asian companies — China, Korea, Japan and India — have what ChapmanCG, a global recruitment firm that specialises in HR roles, calls a “very strong local talent agenda.” In other words, they want to hire people from their own countries, train them and put the best of them in senior roles.

British expats watch Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee anniversary in New Delhi. The 'typical' expat – often thought of as a Westerner – is changing. Credit: Getty Images
British expats watch Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee anniversary in New Delhi. The 'typical' expat – often thought of as a Westerner – is changing. Credit: Getty Images

In South Korea, international experience is seen as a prerequisite for promotion to the top jobs in major corporations. In mainland China, the government is urging its biggest companies to expand internationally as part of its “Going Out Policy” — the result has been a slew of mergers and acquisitions, and Chinese companies opening offices in cities across the globe. Mostly, they are staffed by people seconded from headquarters in China itself.

It’s an advantage

Eric Yap, 42, agrees. Yap studied electrical engineering at the University of Missouri, Columbia in the US and had planned to return home to Malaysia after he graduated.

But a study year he spent in Japan ended up setting him on a different path, and he joined Goldman Sachs’ IT division in Tokyo immediately after graduating. Now working with Amazon Web Services, he’s been there ever since.

“I came to the conclusion that any sort of practical experience would likely be an advantage if I chose to return to Malaysia someday, especially [with] opportunities at global corporations in Malaysia,” he recalls over email. “However, I had never planned on staying this long in Japan.”

Many Asian companies want to hire people from their own countries, train them and put the best of them in senior roles abroad. Credit: Getty Images
Many Asian companies want to hire people from their own countries, train them and put the best of them in senior roles abroad. Credit: Getty Images

“There’s a lot more respect these days for the Asian way of doing things, and for global leaders who have spent time in Asia,” Chapman says. “They are the ones who are going to get promoted. There is an appetite for strategies and ideas that are coming from the region.”

His colleague, Foo Siew Chin, agrees. Since she returned to Singapore two-and-a-half years ago she says she’s noticed more Asian companies are talking about developing their own talent, rather than hiring outside.

“It’s not just about Asians knowing Asia better, it’s also from a corporate and diversity perspective,” explains Foo, who works alongside Chapman. “When companies look at the leadership slate they are increasingly aware that they need to have a more diversified leadership team in Asia.”


Source : BBC

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