Vietnam: Foreign Companies Shift From Expat to Local Staff

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By Lien Hoang

Feb. 17—Foreign companies are increasingly replacing expatriate with local employees in Vietnam and drawing diaspora employees back to the country, Jon Whitehead, Vietnam country manager for Robert Walters, said Feb. 6 during the release of the recruitment consultancy's latest salary survey.

Robert Walters surveyed 700 Vietnamese currently working overseas to gauge the likelihood of their returning to work in the Southeast Asian country, Whitehead said in Ho Chi Minh City after the survey launch, and found that “people were very, very interested in looking at Vietnam.”

Bringing talent back from abroad has become an attractive option for employers facing a limited workpool in Vietnam and neighboring countries, and Robert Walters is also tapping the diaspora community for clients in Singapore and Indonesia.

“It's something we're certainly doing across Southeast Asia,” Whitehead said.

Transferring Jobs to Locals

Beaupha Colette Dinh, country HR senior manager at Philips, agreed that companies in Vietnam must compete for a limited pool of qualified talent and so are turning to Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) to broaden their search.

“I think this is an advantage for companies in Vietnam,” Dinh said, “to have such valuable resources from overseas who understand the local culture.”

According to Andrew Humphreys, senior consultant for sales and marketing for industrials at Robert Walters, the fact that returnees often speak Vietnamese allows them to transfer skills to locals, which can save money and time for employers by allowing them to phase out foreign staff and rely on Vietnamese.

“Almost every multinational company now is starting to move toward finding local Vietnamese to hold most senior positions,” Humphreys said. “One of the very obvious things is, an expat is very expensive. And the other thing is, longevity. If you hire an expat, you get him for two to three years. If you hire a local, you get him for 10 to 15 years.”

Salary Offers Jump

When hiring Vietnamese, firms can expect to raise salaries as much as 25 percent above what their former employers paid, according to the 2015 Robert Walters salary survey. Salary increases averaged 15 to 25 percent in accounting, finance, human resources and sales and marketing of pharmaceuticals, 10 to 20 percent in banking and financial services, and 20 percent in industrial sales and marketing.

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