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More expats have prestigious jobs in Russia

June 25, 2012, 15:14 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Although pollsters say every fifth Russian dreams of leaving the country, the number of foreigners wishing to work there has been increasing at a faster rate. They are not only natives of Central Asia or Eastern Europe, but also "elite guest workers" - the expatriates who work as highly-paid top managers or financial strategists.

The crisis in Europe made many people look for a better fate abroad. In this sense, Russian companies become increasingly attractive to those who lost their jobs in Europe. According to president of the HeadHunter employment agency Yuri Virovets, cited by the Company weekly, the number of expats' resumes increased by 11 percent in 2011 compared with the previous year, and is expected to further increase by at least 10 percent this year.

The Federal Migration Service statistics confirms this trend. In 2011, the inflow of foreign specialists increased by 40 percent from the previous year. A simplified employment procedure /applied to those whose annual income exceeds two million roubles/ was used by 3.5-times more expatriates. According to a study by the British bank HSBS, Russia is still among the five most attractive countries for expatriates.

This year, Russia might expect an invasion of skilled foreign personnel: the ascension to the World Trade Organization commits to open its borders for foreign labor. Personnel cuts at U.S. and Asian companies and the eurozone crisis might provoke their arrival in a severely understaffed Russia.

The main reason behind Russia’s attractiveness for foreign specialists is that it continues to offer them the highest salaries in the world. For example, one third of foreign specialists at top level earn more than 250,000 dollars a year. An overwhelming majority of the polled expatriates claim they are paid more than they would be paid at home.

"The wages of foreign specialists might exceed domestic staff's with the same skills by 25 to 30 percent," the RBK Daily cited Penny Lane Personnel's leading consultant Ella Mikhailova as saying.

Aside from that, expatriates normally receive a generous welfare package that includes compensation, paid by employer, for renting an apartment in central Moscow, a service car, fitness centre membership, and medical insurance. Russian companies take care of the expatriates' family, providing places at elite kindergartens and schools, paying the expenses to travel to Russia, etc. Also, the low income tax for natural persons /just 13 percent versus 50 % in many countries of Europe/, and very liberal migration legislation for skilled specialists make Russia attractive for foreigners.

Meanwhile, there remains a high demand for skilled personnel in Russia, and many companies cannot meet it with their internal resources. The shortage of specialists will have a considerable influence of the country’s migration policy in the next decade. According to experts, the shortage of specialists is catastrophic in IT technologies, production, engineering and agriculture.

In the near future, expats will feel at ease in such sectors as Fast Moving Consumer Goods, marketing, IT, and innovations, Mikhailova predicted, with the robust demand in the labor market for top-level managers, especially in banking, heavy industry and the consumer and oil/gas sectors.

Despite such favorable conditions, western managers do not always fit in Russian companies, experts note. Russian officials sometimes behave incorrectly in personal communication with employees; they fail to set clear tasks, often change them or contradict themselves. The differences in culture and mentality give rise to misunderstanding and eventually result in western specialists’ quitting their jobs.

The portal of Human Resources Officer's aide tells the story of an expat invited by a Russian company to the post of financial director. He was given a salary three times as big as Russian financial director's and a very good welfare package. Exactly two weeks later, the expat phoned and requested him to take him away. It turned out that the company's director general had thrown a crystal ashtray at him because the later had offered to make all of the company's operation legal, i.e. pay all the taxes to the state. The Russian director general had been confident that the competent financial director from the West would be able to help his company operate tax-free.

The expatriates find it difficult to get used to the Russian lifestyle. Western specialists are irked by Russian managers' unpreparedness to work by western standards, supply the necessity information in time and independently, and not to spend worktime on gossip. Nevertheless, many of them stay, and some stay for a long while.

MOSCOW, June 25