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Old 3rd September 2010, 03:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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More expats coming on local packages

More expats coming on local packages



Companies here still cautious about the bottom line.

By Malminderjit Singh
Thu, Sep 02, 2010
The Business Times


SINGAPORE - The economy may be recovering fast from the recession, but companies here are still cautious about their bottom lines.

And as a result, new expatriates are no longer offered the sort of packages their peers once enjoyed. According to headhunters BT spoke to, expat compensation packages have become more localised in content and structure.

'Compensation design for foreign talent has changed. Things such as housing and children's education allowances are not included anymore,' says Tulika Tripathi, managing director of Michael Page International in Singapore.

'Even though the economy is growing, companies are still mindful of economic uncertainty. So costs are considered carefully. You will find that variable compensation, such as targeted bonuses and stock options, now play a bigger role while some banks have even included minimum guaranteed bonuses in packages. But having said that, some companies still offer their senior staff housing allowances.'

Peony Lim, associate director (sales and marketing, engineering and supply chain) at Robert Walters, adds: 'There has been a shift away from expatriate packages towards localised packages and we see this trend continuing for the next couple of years. These go across most salary levels, up to about $200,000 per annum. If at all, there will be some relocation assistance and, at best, housing allowance for the first year. This is reserved for mainly internal transfers across different countries versus the hiring of new foreign candidates into a Singapore-based opportunity.'

A multinational BT spoke to agreed with this salary distinction for new hires from abroad. 'For those coming on their own, they are more likely to be offered localised terms,' said Esther Look, a spokeswoman (pharma) for Roche Singapore.

Ms Lim said: 'Should expatriate packages be offered - again reserved for senior management, internal transfers and very niche positions where there is a scarcity of local talent available - we do see packages including allowances for relocation, housing, education and transport. However, these have changed in terms of the total quantum.

She gives the example of a director of a company who may have enjoyed a housing allowance of $10,000 a month three years ago but may now have an allowance of 50-80 per cent of that. 'This would mean the candidate has to make some concessions on the size and location of their accommodation of choice,' she says.

Asked if such changes are a global or regional trend, Ms Tripathi says that in markets such as China, where there is greater emphasis on growth and medium-term investment, expat packages are more attractive as salary differentials are greater. The Philippines, she says, is another market where expat salaries are higher, since they are paid in US dollars.

Even so, Singapore is still an attractive destination for expats. 'My motivation to come to Singapore was certainly not salary but rather opportunity, as I was offered a very similar salary to my UK university package,' says Dr Martin Hibberd, who heads the Infectious Diseases laboratory at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS).

'Although successful at writing grants in the UK, the projects supported tended to be small and difficult to put together into large- scale, transformational science,' he says. 'Working for A*Star offered the chance to change that, to put in place cutting-edge technologies that would make an impact. I gave up a permanent 'tenured' position for a short-time contract here, to really try to make a difference to the world of infectious diseases.'

According to Ms Tripathi, besides enjoying attractive opportunities, foreigners coming to Singapore value the English-language medium here and the availability of quality English education for their children.

Ms Lim also cites other factors, such as Singapore's safe and conducive environment in which to raise a family, efficient infrastructure and multi-racial society, where foreigners coming in can easily find a support group from their respective communities.

Both headhunters point out that with Asia's growth making the region an attractive place, more foreigners will look towards Singapore as a good landing point.

In Sunday night's National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will see about 80,000 more foreign workers this year to sustain strong economic growth without running the risk of overheating. According to the headhunters, financial services and healthcare are frontrunners to hire more foreign talent.

Ms Tripathi believes operational roles and wealth management are key areas in the financial industry. 'More banks are setting up their operations hubs in Singapore, so more staff with relevant skills and experience will be moved here. And with compliance and technology playing even greater roles, more specialist skills in these areas will be needed.'

She also says wealth management has become a lot more exciting in Singapore than in some of the traditional markets in Europe, and since private banking expertise is limited here, a lot more talent in this area will move here from places such as the UK.

A private banker confirmed this to BT, saying: 'Private banking is certainly hiring more in Singapore and it is no longer just organic building. We are looking to bring in seasoned bankers; that's why demand is more than the supply.' He also confirmed that the tendency is to offer more localised packages to new hires and that, increasingly, bankers from Europe are coming to Singapore.

Ms Tripathi also identifies healthcare as a growing area, and reckons there will be a need for more managerial expertise from Switzerland and the UK, as Singapore emerges as an R&D hub in this field.

Ms Lim adds that as R&D grows here, the demand for research talent is increasing, so there is a trend of more PhDs coming from China to Singapore.

'With Asia fast emerging as a global powerhouse in the bio-pharmaceutical industry, it is clear that many bio-pharma professionals throughout the world will be attracted to the tremendous opportunities the region offers,' according a spokesman for bio and pharma services provider Quintiles. 'Serving as an established base for global companies to tap on the region's opportunities, Singapore is an attractive place for professionals to develop their career.'

Ms Tripathi points out: 'The relative attractiveness of Singapore and Asia compared with the UK has increased, while the opportunity cost of working here has decreased.'

However, it seems that some companies in the healthcare industry hire more from the UK and Europe than the other traditional markets. Ms Look, from Roche Singapore, emphasises: 'We have not recruited any PhDs from China and India. Our PhD candidates come from Roche affiliates in Germany, the UK and Switzerland.'

And according to an A*Star spokesman: 'Our (A*Star) community has an international character, with more than half of our total population of 2,300 research scientists and engineers hailing from more than 50 countries. Indeed, the number coming from Europe including the UK has grown steadily in the past few years.'

Source: http://business.asiaone.com/Business...31-234869.html

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