IBM – Move overseas if you want to keep your job

Certainly, it’s an interesting proposal that IBM has put forward to its former employees.According to a ComputerWorld article,“Some of the workers being let go by IBM have a chance to remain with the company — if they're willing to move to Brazil, India, China or a dozen other low-wage countries.

Certainly, it’s an interesting proposal that IBM has put forward to its former employees.

According to a ComputerWorld article,

“Some of the workers being let go by IBM have a chance to remain with the company — if they're willing to move to Brazil, India, China or a dozen other low-wage countries. But the expatriate employees would likely be paid local wages as they begin their new lives overseas.”

If you’ve ever worked overseas as an expat in a country with a higher cost of living than the U.S., you know that your local wages don’t go very far in that land. I spent a glorious year in Switzerland but that cost of living on a U.S. pay scale was tough. Likewise, I sympathize with L-1 and H-1B visa holders in the U.S. if their employer is paying them the wages of their home country. The cost of living here is hard to accept with those wages.

If you haven’t worked overseas, have you ever been transferred from a low cost part of the country to a high cost area? I did that once and moving to Chicago was a lot more expensive since my wages didn’t increase to cover the higher housing costs, a state income tax, etc.

When you work ex-pat, there are number of things you need to know and get right. First, you’re not a citizen of the new country. Labor laws, employment protections, benefits, etc. can all be different from local, in-country personnel as well as different from what you had stateside. Legally, you're in somewhat of a no-man's land. Your rights are different and you really need to have your exit strategy well-defined upfront. That’s right, you need to have your return arrangements squared away.

There’s one other issue: how long can you be an ex-pat on this (or any other) plan. Eighteen months is often the maximum time you can be on one assignment without encountering problems from taxing authorities and immigration. Some countries will require work permits/visas but only grant them one quarter at a time. These arrangements have to have an end and when they do, will your employer return you to the States and will your career be advanced or stuck where it was when you got sent overseas. For anyone planning an expat assignment, make sure your career continues to advance as local personnel quickly forget about you in succession planning activities. It's sort of a perverse 'out of sight, out of mind' phenomena.

Since I’m no expert on this, seek out your own tax, immigration and legal counsel before you jump at an ex-pat plan.

If this is a serious program from IBM, I think it might end up being lightly subscribed. This quote from the same ComputerWorld article sums it up:

"American workers will be expected to take the lower wages of the new country," he said. "And even with the lower cost of living, none will be able to save enough money to return to the U.S."