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Expatriate Hiring Stalls

Companies cited operations functions as their No. 1 reason for hiring outside the United States.

Most U.S.-based companies that operate abroad have maintained their current expatriate workforce levels or decreased them in response to the global economic downturn, according to survey results from human-resources consulting firm Sibson Consulting. Nearly half (47%) of 99 respondents across various industries said they are keeping their foreign workforce levels the same.

Meanwhile, 35% of respondents surveyed in the summer of 2009 say they are decreasing their number of expatriates. Manufacturing comprised the largest industry response group in the survey at 29%. Sibson cites several emerging trends that companies are following to cut costs associated with employing foreign workforces, including reducing the number or length of international assignments, hiring more local talent, and implementing new compensation plan strategies for expatriates, such as variable pay.

Respondents cited operations functions as their No. 1 reason for hiring outside the United States. Research and development, legal, and finance also ranked high. The top skill sets companies seek in foreign workforces include business/industry knowledge, leadership ability and technical skills.

The Sibson report concluded that the days of high-cost expatriate compensation packages are likely gone as foreign talent in developing countries is no longer in short supply and in high demand.

Organizations Expected Use of Expatriates as the Economy Recovers

  • Increase -- 25%
  • No Change -- 54%
  • Decrease -- 21%

Source: Sibson Consulting's Full 2009 Expatriate Talent Marketing Trends Survey

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