Business Leaders Say They Need More Intnl Workers

Published: Tue 22 Dec 2009 03:24 PM
Asia Pacific & Global Business Leaders Say They Need More International Workers
Companies want access to specialized skills to compete as economic growth resumes
Auckland, New Zealand - December 22, 2009 -- Asia Pacific and global business leaders overwhelmingly believe that international workers continue to be good for business and the economy, despite reports of growing protectionist and nationalistic sentiment prompted by the global recession.
Business executives are looking for fewer, not greater barriers to migration, according to a survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Western Union. Yet, despite challenges in hiring foreign workers, a limited number of businesses have publicly advocated for their government to relax immigration laws.
Three out of four business leaders based in Asia Pacific (74%) and worldwide (76%) say that international workers have a positive impact on the economy. Nearly as many respondents, 70% in Asia Pacific (71% globally) say that foreign workers provide their businesses with competitive advantages.
“While economic insecurity is putting politicians under pressure to protect jobs for locals, it is clear that business leaders still see an open economy with economic migration as essential to drive the recovery,” said Patrician Riingen, Senior Vice President, Pacific & Indochina, The Western Union Company.
Nearly six in 10 (57%) business leaders indicate that the current global economic recession will not change their hiring practices toward foreign workers. In fact, 11% say the recession has made them more likely to hire foreign workers.
Business leaders also see immigration employment laws and regulations affecting their ability to hire international workers, with more than one in four (28% in Asia Pacific and 27% globally) saying that regulations make it difficult to hire a sufficient number of international workers.
About four in 10 (37% in Asia Pacific and 39% globally) cited limited quotas and visas as one of the most significant challenges. Three in 10 (27% in Asia Pacific and 30% globally) say the process takes too long.
“While businesses clearly see the benefits of an open labor market, very few of them are actually involved in advocating publicly for it,” said Ersek. In Asia Pacific, only 22% of respondents have asked, or plan to ask, their government for more open immigration employment laws. Worldwide, only 15% of executives say they have asked for more open immigration employment laws. According to the survey, fewer than one in 10 are advocating for processes or programs under their own company name.
“As well as enabling development at home, the ‘mobile workforce’ provides key skills to employers in a host country or region. Serving the world’s mobile workforce is one of our company’s core competencies,” Riingen added.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, the international mobile workforce represents more than 200 million people. The research findings indicate that when economic recovery gains momentum, businesses will seek more international employees.
Other key findings of the survey include the following.
On the benefits of and need for international workers:
* The vast majority of business leaders (79% in Asia Pacific and 81% globally) believe that international workers enhance the skills and talent of their workforce.
* More than one third of the respondents (34% in Asia Pacific and 41% globally) say that they hire international workers because it makes economic sense.
* Of the relatively small minority of respondents that do not currently employ international workers (16% in Asia Pacific and 13% globally), more than 36% in Asia Pacific and 33% globally plan to do so in the future.
* More than one in four in Asia Pacific (30% in Asia Pacific and 25% globally) expect the percentage of migrant workers employed by their organizations to increase by the end of 2010.
On employing international workers by function:
* Nearly half of international workers hired were skilled (48% in Asia Pacific, 48% globally), while a smaller number were low skilled (9% in Asia Pacific, 9% globally).
* Nearly eight out of 10 (79%) of respondents globally report hiring international workers because they have the skills to fill specific staffing needs, particularly in the areas of senior management, information technology, and sales and marketing.
* Further, the survey revealed that 20% of respondents across all industries depend on employing international workers.
On measures to secure and integrate the international labor supply:
* A significant number of companies are taking steps to secure their labor supply, with nearly half (47.5% in Asia Pacific and 48% globally) directly recruiting international workers and more than a third (37.4% in Asia Pacific and 35% globally) working with third-party recruiters.
* A significant number of companies are now sponsoring international workers on temporary work contracts (25% in Asia Pacific and 21% globally), while some companies are supporting international workers in seeking permanent residency in their host countries (14% in Asia Pacific and 15% globally).
* Cultural and language barriers are more of an obstacle for Asia Pacific companies than for businesses globally (58% in Asia Pacific compared with 46% globally).
* A number of businesses indicated they are offering employee orientation and training in multiple languages (22% in Asia Pacific, 18% globally), offering language training (30% in Asia Pacific, 25% globally), targeting health care information to foreign workers (16% in Asia Pacific, 11% globally) and respecting cultural holidays for all employees (33% in Asia Pacific, 27% globally).
The Economic Intelligence Unit gathered responses from 501 executives at leading global companies; of these, 139 executives were from Asia Pacific.

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