Tag Archives: Immigration

 

We thought we should pull together the main reasons according to our experience that hinder expat spouses from finding a job in the host country. This is a non-scientific analysis based on opinion and experience. There a number of studies dedicated to the topic though. Mainly Global Mobility providers research how family impacts expat failure. In my view this is not enough. We should investigate how we can bring down the barriers to host employment. Let me know if you think I forgot an important topic.

Why is it so difficult for expat spouses to find a job in the host country? Here is a short analysis of the issues.

Work Permit Restrictions

Finding a job is not as straightforward for many of my clients as it is in their home countries. Work permit restrictions are a significant barrier to expat spouse employment. Not every country issues a work permit to the married spouse. Let alone the diversity of life partners mentioned earlier.

Lack of Host Language Skills

Even though the expat might work for a global company most jobs in the host country will require host language skills. Unless you move from the UK to the USA, you often will not have the language skills required to work in the host country.

Lack of Recognition of University Degrees in Regulated Fields

While within the EU we can assume that university degrees will be recognized due to the common job market, a Brazilian doctor cannot work in a hospital in Switzerland. We call this a “regulated profession”.

Lack of Transferable Knowledge

Lawyers, tax consultants, and even HR Professionals are often experts in their country, but the knowledge is often limited to the country and not transferrable. Even moving from Canada to Australia can be tricky if you are a lawyer.

Lack of Professional Networks

Another issue is the lack of a professional network, which gives access to the untapped and informal labor market in the host country. Often you can only join professional associations when you are in a corporate role or when you have graduated in the country.

Lack of Support in the Global Mobility Policy

Only very forward thinking global mobility and global recruiting policies address the need for support for “trailing” dual career partner. While ten years ago dual-career issues on international assignments were solved by sticking to a classical Western nuclear “family” models, we now want to adhere to the needs of dual careers, patchwork families, Eastern “family” models, same-sex partners and unmarried de- facto relationships.

Visionary Global Mobility policies address various support models ranging from providing a lump sum to spousal career coaching. As an intercultural career advisor, I also work with clients who decide to start a global, transferable business so that they can follow their life partner to other locations and become location-independent. Thanks to technology I can support clients in NYC as well as in Mumbai. We also support candidates to improve their personal branding in the host market, learn to network effectively, improve their interview skills and online presentations but GM Leaders need to update their policies

We also support candidates to improve their personal branding in the host market, learn to network effectively, improve their interview skills and online presentations. Global Mobility Leaders should update their policies and promote spouse support services rather than pay lump sums.

Intercultural bias of our Recruiters

Our recruiters often do not understand intercultural differences. Recruiters often don’t understand résumés from another country and outsourcing of talent specialists into HR shared service centers has not improved the chances of “foreign” candidates in the recruitment process.

Most selection methods and assessments are culturally biased. For example, in Switzerland, psychometric testing and other assessments of candidates are used to assess candidates next to interviews. Riedel (2015) shows examples where highly skilled candidates from China fell through the assessment roster in a German company because of their indirect communication style.

Unconscious bias of Sending Home Sponsors

PwC issued a study in 2016 on female expatriation where it becomes very obvious that a lot more women would be interested in an international assignment than the ones that are actually sent.

This is probably due to the unconscious bias of the sending home sponsors who assume a female manager is not mobile even though she might have mentioned it several times. I speak from experience.

Lack of Research to Measure Impact of Dual Career Programs

In 2012 ETH Zurich conducted extensive research with several European universities on barriers to dual careers within the EU and EFTA countries. While this research probably focused on scientists it is hardly known. We assume that companies working with support programs for their dual career population seem to have higher retention rates but we lack scientific evidence. I am highly encouraging students and lecturers to address this issue.

To sum it up there is still a lot to do in order to integrate the needs of dual career couples in the expatriation process.

On the receiving end, I can report that more and more expat spouses are male. There is hope.

 

References:

Riedel, Tim (2015): “Internationale Personalauswahl” 

Weinberger, A. (2016): “The Global Mobility Workbook”, Global People Transitions, Zurich.

Weinberger, A. (2015): „Interkulturell denken bringt Vorteile“ Persorama Summer 2015.

 

 

Discussion with Jill

 Jill is a successful Global Marketing Director with over twenty years of experience. She moved to Switzerland in 2009 as a local hire when she received a good offer from a large pharma company. As a US citizen and single professional woman integrating in Switzerland (a country largely dominated by males earning the main income while females keep the household and children in perfect shape) she initially had a hard time adjusting. After two years she finally felt settled and at home. Jill loves her work and next to a bit of exercise and travelling she does not take a lot of time off. She is successful and strong in a male environment. She is accepted because of her international background, experience and the high quality and fast output.
Then one day early in 2014 the company she works for had to downsize. Foreigners go first. Why is that? There is no logic in the employment law requiring certain criteria to be met when downsizing is on the agenda. Contrary to many European countries Swiss employment contract and employment law is closer to the US and UK case law. It is actually very easy to terminate an employee.

What most foreigners moving to Switzerland underestimate though, is that their work and residence permit status is closely linked to their employment. Unlike EU citizens (which still have the benefit of the blialteral agreement with the EU) a US , Canadian, Indian or Australian is considered a “third country” citizen. (Not to be confused with third world country). The immigration status therefore depends on having employment.  The fact that you are eligible for unemployment benefits is not giving the authorities grounds to extend your work and residence permit.

Last month I had two clients who were made redundant or are about to be terminated. Often not even the HR department understands the implications of the termination. I offer advice and support to clients in such cases.  I am not going to blurt out what I told Jill but we will update you if it works out. In a worst-case scenario she only has 60 days to move out of Switzerland (with an L-Permit it is only 15 days).

Here are three tips what you can  do now to avoid such a situation:

1)   If you are made redundant speak to HR about your personal situation. It might be possible to extend your termination period.

2)   Keep in contact with recruiting companies and headhunters in your field.

3)   Strengthen your network in your industry as most jobs are given to personal connections these days.

4)   Get married to a Swiss person or EU citizen.

5)   If you are transferred by a company, negotiate a repatriation clause in case of redundancy.

6)   Before you become desperate, make an appointment with us.

I have been asked to write about my view on the Swiss referendum for “curbing” immigration into Switzerland. It is very hard for me because I feel very strongly about this topic. I feel it was a huge mistake. I feel it affects me more than it should. I felt like leaving the country. I thought about giving you factual reasons why this referendum sends the wrong signals and why I can only assume that 50% of the Swiss voters did not really understand what they were doing. I thought I’d give you an insight into the immigration reality by showing facts and figures such as

1) Unemployment rate is at 3.5% (who’s taking jobs away?),

2) 22% foreigners include second generation immigrants who were born here as well as well-integrated permanent residents,

3) Many large companies have hundreds of open positions they cannot fill because the Swiss markets does not have the resources needed.

4) Many large companies are only strong because they hire experts from across the globe.

5) The pension system depends on a regular migration as there are not enough babies born by Swiss people.

6) Illegal immigration is per se NOT legal. So you cannot fight it with quotas.

7) Stopping the bilateral agreement means you want to end a contract that includes free trade into the EU and many other countless benefits that have pushed the growth in this country.

Without doubt:  This country depends on qualified immigration and on free trade with the EU.

BUT: facts and figures did not win this popular initiative. So I want  to tell you more about how I feel.

I came to Switzerland for work. I was well established in my home country Germany. I had worked in Zurich earlier in my life and had waited for a chance to move back. (In 1998 I could not stay as I would not have gotten a permit). My company asked me to move to Switzerland because the team was falling apart and they could not find a team leader in four months. I gave up my friends, my apartment and I moved. It was not easy. My role was a step down and I even took an income loss by purchasing power into account but I had this dream about living in Switzerland and it motivated me.

I said to my friends in Germany that I m “repatriating”. I was born on lake Constance so Switzerland felt like “home” for me. I was wrong. I speak High German, not Swiss German. I m a foreigner in this country and I will always be. I am an immigrant. If I ever spoke Swiss German perfectly I would still be an immigrant. I grew up with a heightened sensitivity about racism because I am raised in Germany. I belong to the nation responsible for the Holocaust.

In Switzerland people of my generation do not have the German guilt complex. They are open-minded but they do not worry about discrimination in the same way as I do. I work with people from different cultural and religious backgrounds and I want them to feel welcome and at home here but I do not even feel welcome and at home here.

I look at job postings asking for Swiss German and I feel the discrimination. It’s subtle but it is there. I felt it at work. Swiss colleagues would constantly mock my “German” style until I completely shut up, until I stopped being myself at work and until I gave up fighting for what I believe was right and important. I changed into a robot. Now, in Germany friends tell me “You talk in a funny way.” They laugh at my grammar. I’m shocked if a person I do not know speaks to me in public. I say “Merci” instead of “Danke”. I’m too early for appointments. I plan four weeks ahead and my friends at home shake their heads. I’m more relaxed, less pushy, less direct. German clients don’t get me. They think I am nice and shy. They think I don’t know anything. What I am trying to say is that I have become more Swiss than many Swiss people I know. I just don’t use the dialect because I am worried that I could hurt a Swiss person’s feelings.

My dear Swiss fellows, I am sensitive to your feelings and I am trying so hard but your majority does not care about my feelings or the feelings of the other 2 million well-behaved, well-integrated highly educated professionals that came to Switzerland for work.

Now, I run a business here, I pay my taxes, I create employment and still you do not want me here. It breaks my heart.

Angela Weinberger

Business Travels have also become more difficult because of tightening immigration legislation.
Business Travels have also become more difficult because of tightening immigration legislation.

The current global economic crisis is often considered to have started when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008. This event didn’t just mean the tragic loss of thousands of jobs, it meant that businesses needed to find new ways to combat a slow market – and fast.  Governments also reacted by finding ways to protect their citizens as jobs became scarce. This brought about major reforms to immigration policies and made the international job assignment process more time consuming. Businesses are left disappointed when much-needed talent isn’t issued a permit or when new projects have to be declined due to shortage of talents, and, perhaps even more detrimental, this level of protectionism is contradictory to the basics of modern economic theory. Thus the impact of immigration reform may not always be in the best interest of the citizens.

Generally the US allows 65,000 H1B work visas per calendar year. Often by summer all these visas have been assigned. What are businesses in need of specialized talent left to do for the remainder of the year? Use different visa types? Chose different assignees? Or just not serve the clients? Every year feels like in the movie “Groundhog day”: We never seem to have enough H1B visas. (The US is just an example, other countries have similar quotas).

On the contrary, the EU’s Stockholm Action Plan, the lack of natural borders and Schengen has made relocating for work within the EU easier than ever. Skilled professionals often move into new markets and offer their services at lower prices than what a local professional would charge. The results are more locals looking for work.

The PwC Talent Mobility 2020 study predicts that by the year 2020 more barriers to the movement of labor will fall and the idea of a global passport will become more of a reality. I love this idea but I think we are far away from it in 2013.

My personal view is that we have enough barriers to regulate markets with language and cultural differences being two of the most obvious. If governments want to use immigration reforms for economical gain, the law should be in favor of finding the best talent for the job no matter where the professional comes from. We should:

  • reduce administration in the migration of qualified talents
  • process immigration of skilled labor quickly
  • serve clients better and faster as we move the right talents into the right locations.

Unfortunately, even my current location Switzerland has increased the barriers again this year. More admin. More work. Wrong signal!

I am interested in your view:

  1. What is your experience with labor-market protecting measures?
  2. Have these measure been to your benefit or disadvantage?
  3. What do you think the immigration of skilled professionals will be like in 2020?

Please leave a comment or email me to angela (at) globalpeopletransitions.com.

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Additional information on immigration:

Switzerland

Canada

Australia

UAE

United States of America