Job Market for Indians Abroad
The tradition of Indians ‘crossing oceans to seek fortunes’ is an age old one. In the earlier years, it had been essentially blue collar workmen, that is, plantation workers, road construction workers and the like. However in the last quarter century, there has been a steady traffic of white collar and managerial personnel leaving Indian shores in quest of dollars, riyals, rupiahs and ringgits. I am, of course, excluding the Indian emigrating to North America, Australia and the like.
West Asia continues to be the most preferred destination, largely because of a large number of Indians already working there. Dubai and Muscat have been favourite locations for nearly a quarter century.
Indonesia is fast emerging as a favourite hunting ground. Comfortable housing, servant help and luxurious clubs are given as major attractions in Indonesia.
In recent years, countries like Myanmar, Vietnam and Jamaica (particularly for accounting professionals) are attracting Indian talent.
There are other professionals, that is, medical doctors and nurses, technicians, who have also been working overseas for varying periods.
Favourite locations: Dubai, Muscat, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia Singapore, Malaysia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Eastern Europe, Kenya Vietnam, Myanmar, Jamaica.
Industries: The pattern varies from country to country. West Asia, where trading is a dominant activity, attracts professionals in the field of automobile marketing, garage management, refrigeration and air-conditioning, marketing of consumer durables/consumer electronics, oil and gas sectors, and computer hardware/ software.
Africa attracts professionals from sugar, textiles, soft drinks and other agro-based industries (examples: plantations).
Singapore and Malaysia attract professionals from international trading, financial services, banking and insurance sectors.
Developing countries such as Myanmar, Vietnam and some of the Eastern European countries, are looking for professionals in a wide range of industries including real estate, agro-based industries, and manufacturing and select service industries.
Professionals such as accountants, internal auditors, hardware/software engineers, telecommunication experts and refrigeration/air-conditioning experts are in great demand.
Generally, there is a great preference for professionals with about two to ten years experience and the 25-35 age group is the benchmark. In case of internal auditors, EDP audit would be a major part of the job.
By and large, companies which come to recruit in India, also carry out a similar exercise in other countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Australia and New Zealand.
The companies have clearly defined vacancies, both in terms of number and seniority of personnel. Job specifications are spelt out in detail. Interview evaluation criteria are also laid down.
Skills that the employer is looking for, are also determined the outset. Particularly in the case of hardware/software professionals—type of hardware, specific RDBMS platform, exposure to case tools, networking, data modeling are clearly spelt out. Generally, computer literacy is a must for all jobs.
In view of the short tenure of assignment, employers look for professionals who become productive from the day they join the organisation. Precise key result areas are laid down at the time of joining the company. For example, factors such as completion of projects on-time, quality standards, budget actual comparison, sales targets and keeping abreast of latest developments, and weightages for each of the above factors are handed over to the new incumbent when he steps into the office on his first day of work.
This once again varies from one country to another. Some of the common items are :
Probation period ranging from three to six months.
Generally contracts are for two to three years, renewable by the employers.
Strict pre-employment medical examination, including HIV test.
Secrecy/confidentiality clause. a Leave of about two to three weeks per year of service.
Air-fare to home country once a year.
Housing, car (at middle and senior levels) and Medical benefits.
Generally, employers prefer to provide bachelor-type accommodation. However, at senior levels, family accommodation is provided. This is particularly true of West Asia. In other countries like Indonesia and Singapore, housing and car are provided more readily.
Salary review is done normally after one year of completion. Modest increases (about five per cent of basic salary) is all that the employee can expect. In some cases, a performance bonus may be provided.
There are many aspects, which particularly a first-time employee (in an overseas country) must bear in mind. West Asia particularly, is a male-oriented society. Employers generally expect the employees to be formally attired (a neck tie is a must) and well groomed (no long hair, and beard to be well trimmed). Many of these countries have multicultural, multi-racial workforce. Hence, cultural sensitivity is a must. Great care must be taken in respect of issues sensitive to host country (Singapore, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, in particular).
It may be surprising, but it is generally true that employers are not necessarily looking for outstanding talent. Acceptable level of technical knowledge, coupled with reasonable oral and written communication skills is what is expected.
In many countries, the employer keeps the employees’ passport at the time of handing over the work-permit. These are exchanged when the employee goes on home leave or travels out-side the country on work.
Even though ‘hire and fire’ is not widely practised, employers expect high performance levels at all times.
Working hours in West Asia are somewhat unique. Long lunch breaks are the norm. Typically 60-70 hours a week is common in most jobs. There is no concept of over-time payment. In Saudi Arabia, offices close three times a day for prayers.
Housing and schooling : Generally, reasonable housing is provided in all the above mentioned countries excepting in the case of Indonesia, where palatial quarters are provided, very often with swimming pool.
As regards schooling, there are government schools providing Indian syllabus (CBSE/ICSE) as well as the British pattern (O level, A level), and the American pattern (In Nigeria or in Indonesia for example). Very often school fees are reimbursed by the employer. In cases, where schools fees are not reimbursed, the employer ensures’ that the saving potential of the employee is not affected significantly.
Re-entry into Indian job market : The typical executive, leaving the Indian shores does not give much thought to this critical aspect. What will he do when he returns to India? There are many managers who work abroad (particularly in West Asia) for 10 to 15 years.
In the case of managers working in Africa due to prevailing conditions, there is a compelling need to return to India. Often personal reasons (example : parents, schooling problem, health care) also require these managers to return to India. Re-entry is a major problem for the itinerant Indian manager. Indian employers, after discount the foreign experience, sometimes the manager could be unemployed (in India) for two to three years, before he gets some job in India.
The main motivation for taking up overseas job is to create a nest-egg. Professionally, overseas experience generally does not enrich managerial capabilities. Separation from family is also frequently experienced. Like everything else in life, there are the peaks and valleys in an overseas job.