Publication: GMA News TV
Rebecca Bustamante, President
Filipino managers are taking their rightful place at the
top of the international business community.
It used to be that executive
positions of top multinational organizations were tightly controlled in a
top-down manner. International managers would be sent from the home office
to country offices throughout the world. They would then spend the next
three or four years dictating company operating policies to local staff,
whose performance was measured by how well they complied. There was little
opportunity for Filipinos and other "locals" to aspire for a
senior management post within their own country, let alone outside it.
A revolution in leadership
democracy has overthrown this cozy dictatorship. Localization is all the
rage and most global companies now desire to promote local managers to the
most senior positions, including the once-untouchable ones like Head of
Finance. Global managers have concluded that Asians are well suited to lead
Long live the expat
Despite the clear trend toward
localization of most senior roles in the Philippines and
throughout Asia, there continues to be strong demand for expatriate
is especially so in high-growth sectors such as engineering, hospitality,
business process outsourcing. Employment growth rates in many industries
have been so strong that senior managers from abroad are still needed to top
up local supply. In certain sectors, expatriates still deliver a perception
of prestige that seems to be in never-ending demand.
Despite the continuing demand,
the nature of the expatriate relationship has changed
drastically. Traditional expat packages that provided for luxurious housing,
schooling for kids and flybacks to the home country are being eroded.
Absolutely everything is negotiable.
The trend has created a
fast-growing class of people called "local expats." These are
defined as non-Asians who choose to live and work in Asia for the simple
reason that they like it here. Local expats work at close to international
incomes but pay most of their own personal costs.
Most people in Asia, and
especially Philippines, still think expatriates earn more than they do but
the fact is that most of these differences have been minimized. In locations
like Singapore and Hong Kong, equal-pay-for-equal-work has been a reality.
In countries like ours, the situation is still evolving. Across Asia, senior
local managers in high growth sectors like business process outsourcing and
engineering have seen relentless salary increases and many now earn as much
as any expatriate could ever hope for.
Moving up, moving out
At the same time that Filipinos
and other Asians can now run operations in their own country, they are also
being asked to run operations in other countries as well. Indians,
Filipinos and Malaysians all have the same opportunities to gain experience
that only expatriates used to have.
Going one step further, some
multinationals are expanding the country manager’s job
to handle more than one country. The reason behind this is that most
countries in Southeast Asia are economically small. Dividing time among two
or three countries
provides a realistic return to the employer and a much bigger opportunity to
So, it seems the day has finally
arrived when expatriates are no longer an absolute necessity. But, we
shouldn’t worry about them too much. They will still be around for
a long time to come — if only to keep the seats warm until us locals show
we really want their jobs.
Rebecca Bustamante is
president of Chalre Associates, an executive search and management
consulting firm active throughout Asia-Pacific.
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