Having stayed outside India for more than 11 years now, I find this question to be quite valid and believe it requires serious introspection. The right way to do this is to invoke Maslow. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory in human psychology, talks about never-ending and never satisfying the needs of human beings.
The motivation that triggers one’s mind to explore jobs outside native Country at early stage of career, and the trigger to look back in the past to review the decision of working as an expat and analyzing one’s own decision of having settled abroad, can be better understood when one develops an insight about human needs and psychology. Remember, our needs constantly keep changing with time. Hence, the definition of job “lucrativeness” also keeps changing with our own evolutionary stage, needs, and experiences.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
While in the early-career phase, an individual is happy to get a higher cash component and a better quality of life, it is the later career phase needs that require an up-gradation and are linked to self-esteem, family etc. We need to foresee and anticipate factors such as the education of kids, medical needs and exigencies for self and/or elderly parents (if they accompany you), social security and other related expenses. One has to keep in mind, while your income is in dollars and pounds while abroad, your expenses too happen in the same currency.
Defining a foreign job as being “lucrative” or not also depends upon an individual’s age-group, potential with respect to individuals skillset and qualification, financial status before movement abroad, marital status, life stage at the time of movement abroad (number of productive years left), number of dependents and their age (expenses on kid’s education, health), loans and liabilities on immovable assets in-home country, selection of foreign country for settlement (developed, underdeveloped, cost of living, individual’s nature of spending, the span of stay and decision to stay abroad permanently or time-bound, and the way the local laws treat of you in a foreign nation (e.g. allowed to purchase land for housing, retirement benefits etc).
Moving out when one is young is always a better option. Seeking jobs abroad after completing education in the same country can lead to a more likelihood of finding higher-payed assignments. Unlike India, in most of the western countries, remunerations are not just linked to the degrees but also to one’s skills, the productive quotient of a person, and the nature of the profession.
Be aware as some countries that offer social security to their nationals do not have the same offer extended to expats in the later phases of their life. Added to this is the higher cost of living that takes a toll on all savings, remunerations, and benefits earned at a young age. These are facets that must not be forgotten by anyone who is planning to go abroad to settle there as a professional.
To judge the degree of “lucrativeness” of a job, a job seeker needs to take a holistic view of their own and their spouse’s net earnings abroad. Preferably, it should not lead to an opportunity-lost situation for their life partner. In some countries while spouses may be professionally qualified, local regulations may not legally allow them to work or apply for his or her own work permit. In most cases, overall compensation is deemed non-profitable if your partner is not able to exploit his/her professional qualification.
If a job seeker working in an MNC based in the home country but decides to join the foreign division of the company, a detailed review of expat policy is highly recommended. This is more important if the cost of living in the home country is lower than it is in the country of posting abroad. If the company decides to send you back to the home country in the later phase of your professional career, your compensation may get hit badly due to the lower cost of living in the home country. Problems get exaggerated as with years of stay in a foreign country and with the high-paying lucrative fiscal package, you and your family to adapt to the improved lifestyle of foreign land… and then getting a lower relocation compensation offer for settling in the home country creates a larger dilemma and unrest for self and family. Thus the entire perspective of moving abroad for a lucrative package and a better quality of life gets a hit.
Some tips to be noted:
- Look before you leap.
- While hiring, “cost to company (CTC)” which includes perks and long term benefits is critical for the hiring company, but for an individual, cash in hand is what really matters.
- It is preferable make a move in the early phase of one’s professional life.
- Prefer countries that allow permanent residency to you preferably within few years of living there or at least after a few years of service.
- Some benefits in the pay package, like kid’s education allowances, are mostly applicable for schooling and look lucrative in the age-group of thirties and forties. However, expenses for higher education, for instance, undergrad studies take a toll on your savings. In most cases abroad, kids beyond 21 years are not eligible for dependent visas. In such cases, their visa, home visits, and a multiple establishment for the family becomes quite an expensive affair.
- Medical insurance costs abroad are quite high for expats, which are either not covered by employers or are not sufficient in certain illnesses. Must watch out for Mediclaim policies before moving abroad, not forgetting your dependent parents.
- Check regulatory requirements of the country (abroad) for buying land or owning a home, as rentals take a heavy toll and drain off hard-earned savings.
- Understand the income tax regulations and annual deductions while accepting any foreign assignment.
- If you are looking for a permanent job in a foreign land after landing abroad (as a student or probable employee), do exploratory work for a set time frame, as extended experimentation can be an expensive affair. Remember, a decision to make no decision is also a decision. If a decision proves wrong in the future, don’t worry, it will certainly leave you enriched with learnings and experience.
Avoid these pitfalls:
- A fair assessment of your own potential irrespective of your parents’ or guardians’ capabilities to support your foreign stay is a must. This is essential as exigencies can happen any time anywhere.
- Mental preparedness to take challenges head-on is very important for your successful stint in a foreign job. Not being mentally prepared for a major change in your life and lifestyle can be an obstacle that you need to be aware of.
- An early decision to plan length of stay in a foreign land certainly pays in the long run and helps in avoiding shocks in life. If you fly out with indecision resident in your mind, you may be facing issues that you may not have anticipated. Therefore, anticipate and plan a 360 degree counter to all probabilities.
Students who plan to make their careers in a foreign land and are in constant search of lucrative careers must not get into the trap of short-term assignments abroad as they may not get translated into a long span of their productive life. A decision to move back to the native country with a permanent job may be a better option in certain cases. This situation is quite common with research scholars. Remember, a bird in hand is better than two in the bushes. A delay in getting permanent positions or multiple short-term assignments in a foreign land may spoil your chances of being eligible for permanent positions in your home country.