Global Mobility, The Inevitable Phenomena

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT – Taufik Arief, founder and director of People Search Indonesia & APAC director of NPAworldwide discusses global mobility.

Global mobility is inevitable. It follows both human and business instincts, despite politics and policy discouraging individuals to do so. There are some valid reasons which enable people to work and live cross border and try to fulfill the fortune beyond their own country. These factors should be a consideration for employees, employers, government, and lawmakers in understanding the phenomena.

1. The significant gap in income and quality of life.

The major factor for people to work outside of the country is better income and quality of life. Rich and developed countries comparatively offer better income, healthcare, public infrastructure, security, and post-retirement lifestyle. Better currency power is also a determining factor for talent’s real income. We can see millions of people work in gulf states, which might come from Philippine, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and African countries, expecting petro-dollars money, where they can live better and simultaneously send some of their money back to their home country, increasing the quality of life of the loved ones. It’s not a secret, that many people in developing countries are dealing with an income to cost of living ratio problem, where the cost of housing, education, and healthcare are rising much faster than their income growth. This is due to inflation, currency devaluation and massive lifestyle changes. The fact is, when someone has a choice, it will make sense for them to try their fortune beyond their own border. People who hold a higher degree of education, a globally recognised professional certification, and higher-skilled talents have major capital in migrating. Certainly, people with a strong international network, overseas family members and good friends are more advantaged.

2. Minimising hiring cost 

Still related to the above point, employers also might consider to source ‘more affordable’ candidates. It’s a business instinct, where the company will try to hire people at lower hiring costs and therefore be more productive and profitable. For certain roles, employers in a more developed country will actively source talents from lower income countries. It might be a good solution for both sides, as the employer might get lower hiring costs, and at the same time, the employees from those particular low income places will gain better income and quality of life. A country like Singapore hires many construction workers from developing/underdeveloped countries such as Bangladesh and also offers retailers and hospitality work to other ASEAN neighbours. A win-win solution, as those workers have the chance to work and live in a developed country, and earn more. Indeed, politics plays a part here. As local job protection might be applied, but the appetite for a businessperson to hire lower cost labour/employees is normal. On the other hand, the government indeed needs to regulate too, creating harmony in the talent market, not only in the country but also regionally.

3. Competency gap

Every country might develop and grow specific industries and at the same time, has limited talents to serve. On the other hand, some places have a lot of talents available and ready to fill the gap. We have witnessed many coders, application developers and data analysts in India migrating to other places, where the e-commerce industries are massively growing. Filipino workers are still one of the dominant players in the hospitality business, particularly in the Middle East. Companies in developing (or underdeveloped) countries still need highly educated, specialist, senior executives from developed countries. The gap between the current and best practice encourages the organisation to invite mode advanced talents (from more advanced places). Those people help to improve and transform the local people to meet international standardised competencies. A smart government like Singapore look at this competency gap in detail, by giving more value-adding jobs to local, and inviting foreigners to do lower adding value jobs. 

4. Career path and diversity spirit

Some advanced multinational companies promote global mobility as part of their career development. They understand the importance of knowledge and best practice exchange for their management team among their branches. Before being promoted as an executive of the company, talent might be assigned in other countries or their regional office as their basic requirement. The overseas assignment is part of the career path. The ability to work in a different environment, beyond their comfort zone is part of development for a senior executive. This global mobility also enables the spirit of diversity, which is believed as a source of better productivity and creativity in business space. 

5. Changing demography 

Some countries face a demography challenge. Japan is facing an ageing and declining population situation. It has been declining 0.8 per cent in last few years, and might possibly be losing one million net population year on year basis ahead, forcing the country to open the talent market to sustain their economic engine. Singapore also has one of the lowest fertility rates around the world, which makes them open to international talents. Gulf states, such as UAE and Qatar are well known for inviting expatriates, as their local population and talents are not enough to answer their economic growth. 

On the other side of the planet, there are some countries with a growing population. China is an example, with the biggest population in the world, an unfortunate trade war and slower economic growth will push them to send their talents abroad, aligning with their international investment beyond their borders. In general, a country with a declining population might potentially import more talent, while a country which is increasing its talent population might export those talents. The government needs to think about how to handle this demographic issue, perhaps creating an opportunity for their excessive talent abroad where necessary if they have a combination of high population and lower labour absorption locally.

6. Culture preference 

Some people and families have specific values which expect a certain culture. Some are liberal; some are conservative. They might have preferences of a place to live. Currently, our world faces global populism, which is not comfortable for some people. Political changes, business changes and the way people interact with each other might be different as well. This also can enable people to migrate to other places, despite most of the consideration have remained in the economic side.

The above are some reasons for people to pursue global mobility. Indeed there are many others. So how do you as a recruiter grab the global mobility opportunities and bring benefit to your employers or customers? If you are in government, how do you strategise your country’s positioning in the global talent market?

Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts related to this matter, with and