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« Fact vs. Fiction on Today’s Economy | Main | Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited Call Options Closed »

Where’s the Land of Opportunity These Days?

Opportunity 21 May 2010.jpg

By Doug Hornig, Casey Research

Recent decades have witnessed an amazing shrinkage of the American manufacturing sector, from #1 in the world to virtual non-existence. Companies, taking advantage of cheaper labor costs abroad, have either outsourced some portion of the workforce or relocated their entire operations offshore. Remember the “great sucking sound” that Ross Perot claimed he could hear?

Well, today, if you listen, there’s a different, almost opposite sound in the air. Instead of American jobs going to lower-paid foreign workers, foreign workers are leaving America for better jobs. It’s happening, increasingly, among professionals who expatriated to the U.S. in search of the good life and have begun seeing better prospects back in their countries of origin.

In a worldwide survey by HSBC Bank International, conducted among 3,100 expats in the first quarter of 2009, more than 1 in 5 (22%) working and living in the U.S. said they were considering pulling up stakes and returning home. That’s 50% higher than the overall average of expats everywhere.

This may seem strange to residents of the traditional land of opportunity. We’re much more accustomed to foreign graduates of American colleges doing whatever it takes to get that green card. But it’s in keeping with numbers noted by other observers.

And it’s all about the career prospects.

Those studying the trend say that foreign professionals are becoming frustrated with their lack of advancement in the U.S., citing widespread salary and promotion freezes, not to mention layoffs. As our unemployment rate has ballooned to an “official” 10% and everyone is downsizing, people with advanced degrees have not been spared. Competition for the best jobs is more intense than ever, and switching employers no longer results in an automatic step up the ladder.

In addition, employees holding H-1B skilled worker visas often get the short end of the stick from employers. No one with a hard-to-obtain H-1B is going to complain about unfair treatment – or so the thinking goes – because termination most often results in a quick plane ride back home.

But that may not be much of a sword to hold over someone’s head as home begins to look more and more attractive. People who came here from India and China, even as recently as a decade ago, are well aware of the explosion in opportunity that’s transpired way back east. As a consequence of all this, Harvard researcher Vivek Wadhwa predicts, more than 100,000 expats will repatriate to India in the next five years. He cites reports from human-resource directors in India and China, showing a recent tenfold increase in the number of résumés from the U.S.

And why shouldn’t they be thinking of packing it in? Among the 26 countries included in the HSBC study, America ranked a dismal 17th overall, based on four criteria: annual income, disposable income, ability to save, and ownership of luxury items.

Heading the list of negatives here is that wages have not kept pace with the domestic cost of living (a discrepancy American citizens also are painfully aware of). Just 39% of expats report being able to save more money since moving to the U.S.

That’s despite concerted cost-cutting, too. When asked if the credit crunch had changed their attitude toward spending, 74% of those living here answered yes. Two-thirds say they have both cut down on luxuries and been trying to save on day-to-day costs.

Okay, but what if the shoe is on the other foot? What if you’re a displaced professional worker, should you consider looking for a job out of country? Maybe. Though it will certainly be more difficult for an American to land a position abroad than for a repatriated citizen, it isn’t impossible.

The HSBC study wasn’t just about the U.S. Expatriates were working in all 26 countries surveyed, and many, of whatever nationality, are doing much better than those here.

Consider this: The highest proportion of expats earning more than the equivalent of US$250,000 per year (30%) is to be found in Russia. Of all places. Hard to imagine but true. Russia is followed in this category by some locales you might expect to see on the list, Hong Kong (27%), Japan (26%), and Switzerland (25%). But tied for fourth is another surprise, India.

Highest percentages of those who say they’re saving more than they could at home were working in Saudi Arabia (90%), Russia (97%), and Qatar (98%).

Given those salary and savings-rate data, it’s no surprise that the number one overall ranking for expats went to Russia. All the rest of the top eleven were located in the Middle and Far East. In order: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, the UAE, Singapore, Japan, Bahrain, India, Malaysia, and China.

Where do you not want to go? Mostly, just avoid the EU. The bottom five: Belgium, Germany, Australia, Spain, and France.

Look at the top ten and bottom five again. This topsy-turvy world is not the one we’re used to, not the one most Americans still think it is. Opportunity is where you find it, and world citizens willing to cross borders for work are, with good reason, setting sail for nations other than the U.S.

If you, like an increasing number of Americans, feel that these days life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness may be easier to come by outside of the U.S., the American Expatriation Guide – written from personal experience – is a must-read. Completely FREE of charge, this 29-page in-depth manual for expats tells you everything you need to know when considering to move abroad. Click here to download it now.

Got a comment then please add it to this article, all opinions are welcome and very much appreciated by both our readership and the team here.

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Reader Comments (5)

Our...the USA's...fastest growing welfare...part of the Redistribution-of-Wealth mantra we keep hearing...and seeing on Wall Street...

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSnakeman

yeah, these days in non-developed countries you will always have a job. (but less paid)
I think that in 10-20 years from now, a new wave of technical revolution will start, to replace all the human jobs by computer artificial intelligence software and robots. So, for example, if you are a accountant, programmer o web designer, you have about 10 years of your profession left. If you are a plumber, construction man, or nurse you still have more time because robots are not going to reduce its cost too soon, and simple human work will be still cheaper. By the 2030-2040 we will have massive robots expansion and a lot of people will die from starvation because robots are going to be prefered to do the job. You think, "i am not gonna live that much to see it!". Well, thats your decision, because biotech will help you to extend your life much more than you think.
For more info google "transhuman","technocalypse" or "kurzweil singularity" on youtube

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDi

Add to welfare industry...robotic engineering...

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSnakeman

I don't like to say that deserting the US job market is like rats leaving a sinking ship. The Ex Pats worked here, make money here, sent it home, and now follow the job market. Can we blame them? They will be looking for work in businesses overseas making products for American firms which formerly provided jobs in America for American workers. Thanks, Congress. That "great sucking sound" should have been our elected representatives going down the toilet before they could do all this damage. Is it any wonder that their approval rating is about 22%, which makes us wonder who the heck are the 22%? Congress had the chance to improve Americas image and send out the right message to our kids and the world by impeaching Clinton and dumping Barney Frank, both of whom violated the sanctity of their office. Do we learn from history or do we repeat it all over again?

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Ell

This is no consolation, but its not just the States, its hard to point a finger at any country and say it is being run properly, Norway, maybe, at least they have no debt.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGold Prices

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