5 Challenges to Overcome When Hiring Expats in Asia

Feb 1, 2019

When it comes to hiring an expat for jobs in Asia there’s a lot to consider. As with any recruitment decision, there are benefits and challenges for both the employer and potential employee. With that in mind, we thought we’d put our heads together and write a post to help you assess the ins and outs of hiring expats.

Why do expats want to work in the Philippines and Vietnam?

Asia has long been a sought after destination for expats hoping to explore exciting new destinations. However, in recent years, the region’s economic growth has made it an appealing destination for expats hoping to advance their career and save money. If you’re hoping to convince expats to move to your country for a new opportunity here are some useful statistics.

InterNations, the world’s largest network for expats, recently compiled the top 30 countries for getting a good job, making friends, and raising a family. Their ranking was based on interviews with more than 18,000 expats living in 68 countries around the world. Expats noted that the Philippines is affordable, and the locals are incredibly friendly.

In addition, the latest results of HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey reported that 56% of expats found raising children in the Philippines as less expensive and 63% of expats had bought a property for the purpose of retiring in the Philippines in the future.

The picture was similar in Vietnam.

HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey revealed that expats in Vietnam annually earn $90,408 on average, with 31% seeing an income rise of 25% and above. Vietnam, accordingly, ranks in the first place in the world for savings with 72% saying moving to Vietnam helped them save more, while 72% also agreed that they have more disposable income than they did in their home country.

What are the Benefits of hiring an expat?

At Curran Daly, we often hear that hiring managers are struggling to find the talent they need. Skills shortages are rife and many find that their local talent pool lacks the skills or experience they are looking for. Whether you’re looking for C-Level execs or searching for individuals with niche skills, hiring an expat could be the answer you’re looking for.

By bringing in foreign talent, you can introduce specialist skills to your local workforce. Don’t just see hiring talent as a temporary plaster for your skills gap, in time, expats will be able to help your local workforce gain globally relevant skills. The important thing to note here is, that to make the most of outside skills, you’ll need to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills through close working relationships, peer-to-peer support and mentoring programmes. By doing so, you’ll be able to empower and develop local staff who will be the successors after expats return to their home country or retire.

Another important benefit of hiring expats is the effect it can have on diversity within your business. Strong companies thrive on diversity. By hiring a diverse pool of expertise and experience, you’ll be able to bring together best practice from around the world. Diversity in itself is a great win for any company. According to 2017 research published in Harvard Business Review, cognitively diverse teams solve problems faster than teams of cognitively similar people. By hiring outside of your local talent pool, you’ll be able to improve problem-solving, boost creativity and encourage innovation.

Looking for new ideas? Hoping for innovation? By hiring outside of the box and casting your net a little wider, you’ll be able to encourage the growth of fresh ideas in your business. Not only that, but it’s also a great way to avoid stagnation. Sometimes a change in the leadership team is just what’s needed to reinvigorate an organization or its departments.

And finally, one area less talked about, but equally as valid as any of the previous benefits mentioned, bringing in expats can be a good way to tackle corruption. It’s no great secret that many organizations within Asia have struggled in this respect. Sometimes internal appointments can be compromised by local hires. In this case, bringing in outside talent could be a wise solution.

What are the challenges of hiring expat talent?

When it comes to hiring expatriate talent there are certain challenges and risks that have to be overcome. By being aware, and taking a measured and organized approach, you should be able to negate or minimize any issues.

Firstly, hiring expat talent can be more costly than hiring local talent. In some cases, hiring an expat may cost you twice as much as hiring local talent. When moving talent from one part of the world to another, they expect to be rewarded (and rightly so). Unfortunately, it’s an unavoidable aspect of accessing the skills and experience you need. The key is to budget well in advance for expatriate hires and to be clear about the costs involved. Remember, it’s not uncommon for expat hires to have additional expenses such as relocation costs, taxes, immigration documents, and temporary accommodation. An organized approach is essential to ensure you deliver a competitive package for both employer and employee.

Another important thing to be mindful of is the needs of additional family members. If your expatriate hire has children in tow, you may need to time your hire around academic cycles to ensure they don’t miss out on school time or places.

Another concern when hiring expat talent is the cost if it doesn’t work out. Many worry about the expense of paying out contracts if it all goes wrong. Admittedly, it can be costly, but the best way to avoid this is to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

You only get as much out of the hiring process as you put in. You need due diligence and support at each and every stage. Hiring shouldn’t stop at a handshake. It should go right through to onboarding and integration. Great hires work for great employers. Make sure that there is someone available to help your expat talent feel at home. If they are well integrated, they are more likely to be happy and successful. Be sure to help them settle in. Give them a thorough induction, get their banking and taxes sorted, and give them a tour of the city. By putting the time in now, you’ll be able to minimise any risks and ensure that you have a successful hire.

The rise of the ‘inpat’

An alternative to hiring expat talent is to hire an inpat. In recent years, lots of expats have decided to stay in the country or region after the completion of their assignment. Expats often fall in love with the place and want to stay. Inpats can be a good source of talent, without the expense of full expat packages.

By hiring inpat talent, you’ll be able to avoid all the added costs and problems such as relocation costs, taxes, immigration documents, and temporary accommodation. Hiring on a “localized package” is becoming an increasingly popular option in Asia, particularly in the Philippines and Vietnam. In many cases, inpats can be more flexible as they are already based here, which means they can be perfect for those short term assignments that you’ve been struggling to fill. If you require a quick injection of skills or have a particular problem that you need help with, inpat talent could be the way to go.

Why it’s so important to be transparent about hiring expats

When bringing in outside talent, it’s really important to be open and honest about your reasons and to take the time to paint it in a positive light. Naturally, when expats are brought in, local talent can feel resentful. To help combat any negative views, it’s really important that you communicate your reasons for hiring outside of the local workforce. Make sure that your local talent sees it as a positive. By demonstrating the positives to both the company and the economy, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring good working relationships. Remember, your company is only as strong as your weakest link. Communicating your rationale is an essential step in ensuring that each hire you make is as beneficial as it should be.


Curran Daly and Associates is a trusted executive recruitment firm based in Manila, Philippines, with offices in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Sydney, Australia, and Hong Kong. Our experienced, well-connected headhunters have helped global organizations solve their recruitment needs. Get in touch to see how we can help

By: Curran Daly + Associates


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