Better off on lower wages

October 16, 2009

It’s a bitter irony of a globalized era. You can live far more comfortably on a smaller salary in a lower-wage country like India or China, than is possible in the US or UK on a hefty package. Small wonder IBM dangled the carrot of offshore jobs before its laid-off IT employees but they were so skeptical of the move, they did not fall for the bait.

The IBM program was very innovatively designed to offers incentive to surplus American workers to relocate to India, Brazil or China. The program dubbed Project Match promised visa assistance to workers willing to relocate and accept lower foreign salaries. Although it was ideal for IT workers without families or mortgages, the initial response to the program has been of skepticism and deep mistrust.

This kind of a knee-jerk reaction is misinformed as the kind of comforts that India offers (domestic help, good schooling for children, to cite just two) are unimaginable anywhere else in the world. Ask Myriam Vock. After a year of answering phones for Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. at a callcenter in Geneva, Vock moved to Delhi two years ago and now shares a five-bedroom apartment in an upscale New Delhi suburb with four other foreigners. She still works for a callcenter — Tecnovate eSolutions, that provides contact services to a UK-based travel agency eBookers PLC— and at he end of the month, takes home a smaller pay packet but Vock is happy that she can now afford the lifestyle of an upper-crust Indian.

Perhaps these decisions would be simpler, if people weren’t too scared of abandoning their security zone, for newer pastures. Those who do find the courage, don’t fare too badly. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.com. The survey found that 41% of American IT workers who got laid off in the last three months have found new, full-time permanent positions, while another 8% have found part-time work.. Of these 59% were men and 49% women. Their mean age was 40. Workers aged between 18 and 24 are least likely to get a job.
Significantly, one-in-four workers (25%) who did not manage to find suitable re-employment, are actively toying with the idea of launching their own dream boats.

This reminds me of a speech made by Warren Buffet to a bunch of New Year revelers, “We begin this New Year (2009) with dampened enthusiasm and dented optimism. Our happiness is diluted and our peace is threatened by the financial illness that has infected our families, organizations and nations. Everyone is desperate to find a remedy that will cure their financial illness and help them recover their financial health.”

Buffet then went on to outline the following maxims to survive by in today’s economy:

  • Hard work: All hard work brings profit, eventually
  • Laziness: A sleeping lobster is carried away by the water current
  • Earnings: Never depend on a single source of income.
  • Spending: If you buy things you don’t need, you’ll soon sell things you need.
  • Savings: Don’t save what is left after spending; spend what is left after saving.
  • Accounting: It’s no use carrying an umbrella, if your shoes are leaking.
  • Auditing: Beware of little expenses; a small leak can sink a large ship.
  • Risk-taking: Never test the depth of the river with both feet.
  • Investment: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Coming from one of the shrewdest investors among us, that makes sound business sense.


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