IN INDIA AS AN EXPATRIATE
by Barbara Foster, Guest Columnist
India is a hot
destination. Tourists, pilgrims. and executives are arriving in
ever-increasing numbers. For those expatriates seeking a professional
position in India, there are interesting opportunities and challenges.
Challenges Facing Expatriate Job Seekers in India.
A study of the labor market in India
reveals numerous challenges facing expatriates wishing to work on the
local economy, including:
- Offshore Employment
Placement Practices: Most
expatriates working in India have secured their jobs prior to moving
- Work Permits:
Although the US and India have an agreement that enables their
diplomatic spouses to work in each other’s countries, most
expatriate spouses from other countries do not have this privilege.
- Compensation Rates:
Even when a person has a job offer, the salary rates are exceedingly
low. A “good” local salary is approximately 25% - 30% of what
professionals would earn in the United States or Europe. Many
positions pay far less.
- Work Week and Vacation
firms normally work 5 ˝ - 6 days per week and grant fewer paid
vacation days than offered by most U.S. and European companies.
- Working Conditions:
Although most companies have air-conditioned offices with good office
infrastructure, many do not.
- Culture of Work:
Indian firms have no tradition of hiring consultants or employing
individuals who know that they will live in India for just 2-5 years.
In addition, although English is often the official language of the
workplace, it is not the informal language; workers without knowledge
of Hindi can feel somewhat isolated in their daily work.
- Licensing Issues:
Some fields, including medicine and law, are not easily open to
expatriates due to specific constraints and licensing issues.
- Geographic Issues:
New Delhi is a very large city, spread over many kilometers with
minimal transportation infrastructure. Moreover, the growth areas of
the city are located 10-20 kilometers from residential areas where
most expatriates live, adding as much as a two hour commute for some
India’s emerging middle class labor market is well educated, and
many workers with excellent skills are willing to work for local pay
rates that are much lower than an expatriate worker is willing to
- Lack of “Professional”
Volunteer Roles: it is difficult to find challenging volunteer
roles since charitable organizations have little or no experience
supporting creative volunteers working in their programs. This
situation limits opportunities.
- High Touch in a High Tech
Environment: In spite of the technology boom, networking and
personal connections are still necessary to locate a satisfactory job.
Opportunities for Expatriate Job Seekers: On
the positive side, India is “booming” and there are real job
- English is the language
of business in India. Although not used in all aspects of work, most
growth industries require that their employees use English daily.
There seems to be a demand for accomplished native English speakers
- Indian Firms Offer Key
Opportunities: There are some Indian firms developing new
lines of work and contemporary business practices. They are open to
hiring qualified expatriates for full-time work or in consulting
roles. Although the salaries offered are less than optimal, many of
these organizations offer roles of significance that are appealing to
- Expatriates Work in Interesting
Roles: Expatriates can find interesting, challenging roles,
often with daily access to chief executive officers and policy-makers.
- International Businesses and
Nonprofit Organizations: An ever-increasing number of
international firms and nonprofit organization are conducting business
in India. Although they hire most of their staff members locally, many
retain a small number of expatriate staff and intermittent
consultants. These organizations are often willing to hire qualified
expatriates living in India instead of recruiting talent offshore.
Salaries are usually competitive with international standards.
- Buying Power of the Indian
Rupee: A comparison of the relative purchasing power of India
and the United States reveals that India’s per capita GDP of $523
provides $2,686 in purchasing power. In the US, a GDP of $35,000
purchases $37,000 worth of goods and services. Therefore, a
rupee-denominated salary purchases many more local goods and services
in India than the dollar equivalent salary buys goods and services in
- Relatively High Value Placed on
Qualified Expatriate Workers: Highly trained, experienced
professionals from any country are valued by organizations based in
India. If an expatriate has the necessary skills and expertise, a
number of firms are willing to tailor their offers to meet the
applicant’s needs. However, few organizations are willing to pay a
premium to hire an expatriate instead of an Indian worker.
- Self-Employment Options: The
large expatriate community and a growing Indian middle class create a
demand for a number of goods and services that can be provided by
self-employed individuals who target those individuals in their
- Meaningful Volunteer
Opportunities: Although there is no significant tradition in
India of nonprofit organizations using highly skilled volunteers in
their programs, a few of these organizations are open to the
possibility of talented, dedicated volunteers with specific skills.
Between Challenges and Opportunities
Overcoming the challenges and
networking oneself into taking advantage of the opportunities is the task
facing job hunters around the world. Like many other things in India,
locating a job is the same as in most other countries … only more so!
Barbara Foster is the Founding
Member of STRATEGIC LINKS. Strategic Links is
an international organization created to assist career-seeking “trailing
partners” develop and maintain their professional careers wherever they
reside. Members are spouses/partners/family members of individuals with
international careers. Since job satisfaction is a key factor in retaining
members of the diplomatic corps, the military, and multinational
corporations, it is important that dual-career partners have viable
STRATEGIC LINKS is a private,
tax-exempt, non-governmental organization, incorporated both in the U.S. and in
India, with the first chapter located in New Delhi.
Membership is open to spouses, partners, and
family members of expatriates of any nationality currently working in India, as
well as interested Indian professionals.