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Overseas work shifts from West to East

Posted: 01 Oct 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:overseas job? employment? recruitment? human resource? salary?

In the midst of a slow, modest recovery in Asia, observers say the industry's worst nightmare has already come to an end. But despite a promising future and a positive industry outlook, the question of stability and recovery remains to be seen and felt. Such conditions contribute to the continuing rise of engineers who opt to try their luck in other countries. Aside from the lure of a fat paycheck, career opportunities and acquisition of add-on skills, other factors such as low employment and oversupply of manpower from the region contribute to the continuing plight of engineers wanting to work overseas.

In last year's survey, 77.6 percent of the total respondents expressed their desire to work overseas. This year, that figure went up slightly to 79.4 percent. Engineers from Taiwan posted this year's highest response rate with 82.8 percent, followed by mainland China with 79.5 percent. Engineers from South Asia, who posted the highest positive response last year (83.6 percent), had the lowest rate this year (75.7 percent). South Korea, meanwhile, experienced a slight decline from 80.9 percent to 79.8 percent.

The U.S. continues to be the most prominent dream destination for most of the respondents. However, the attraction rate of going to the said country dipped to 44.1 percent from last year's 50.8 percent. This decline is due mainly on the increasing number of semiconductor operations that are shifting to the Asia-Pacific region, as well as outsourcing R&D talents in technology hotspots like mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and India. Business is now moving toward the East, effectively reversing the usual flow of engineering manpower.

"This year, about 1.5 percent of Intel's external hires came from other countries," reports Carmen Law, Intel Corp.'s sourcing manager for the Greater Asia region in Hong Kong. "With the growth and development of this region, many engineers are finding more opportunities and wider career choices."

"Engineers may find the United States a more suitable destination for work, but that trend may only be temporary," said Madelyn Lip, Asia-Pacific staffing manager of Agilent Technologies. Lip revealed that there is an increasing trend of Asian engineers who are interested in returning home, especially in China and India. "As more multinationals continue to invest in Asia, overseas engineers of Asian origin find their skills and experience highly sought after and they could have the opportunity of embarking on a more accelerated career path when they return to work in their home countries."

Today, all eyes are on mainland as it slowly stirs the EDA and chip design sectors. Synopsys Inc. CEO Aart de Geus said, in a recent interview with EE Times, "the growth of China poses a great impact on businesses in the U.S. This is clearly seen on the increasing number of jobs going overseas." De Geus added, "In the future, we'll see some migration of wealth to the Far East, especially China and India, because the numbers speak of a massive migration."

"The implication is very simple - engineers in those regions tend to be of lower cost," said David Wiens, product marketing manager of Mentor Graphics' systems design division. "Over time, the cost of those engineers will go up. As their salaries go up, companies will start looking for another region to find cheaper talents." India, Wiens opined, is in the middle of the engineering world in Asia. They've been doing designs in their turf for a while, but later on, these companies will go somewhere else where they can do their designs cheaper.

Evidently, this year's survey reveals that the U.S. still remains to be the top choice for engineers who want to work abroad. However, the situation in the Asia-Pacific region is enough proof that the trend for overseas work will change significantly in the coming years. The global recession in the electronics industry left a bitter remembrance. Now, the survivors of the downturn are preparing to regain a steady foothold and grab momentum. Looking forward to greener pasteurs in the upturn is the Asia-Pacific rim - and their time to rise is coming sooner than expected.

- Rey Buan Jr.

Electronic Engineering Times - Asia

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