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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Expat Job Market Appears Steady

Expats distressed by reports of declining job opportunities in Russia shouldn't book tickets home just yet: Senior management consultants say a boom for foreign business is likely to keep employment steady, at least in the short-term.

While most head-hunting agencies active in Russia agree that opportunities for expatriates will remain plentiful for the next few years, they differ on how long employers will continue to pay the high salaries of expats rather than hire from the ever-growing pool of experienced Russian managers.

"It will take a very long time to replace senior level expat managers," said Jean-Claude Falciola, a managing partner of the consultancy Egon Zehnder International. "Practically a generation."

Falciola, whose firm is opening a permanent office in Moscow, compares opportunities for expats in Russia today to those in the post-World War II period, when U.S. multinationals rushed to open European subsidiaries.

"It took decades before they shifted to local management," he said.

Jonathan Holmes, CIS partner for Korn Ferry/Carre Orban International, agreed: "There is still a market for foreigners seeking employment here. By and large, top posts in most corporations are still taken by expats."

But Holmes and other placement professionals tend to forecast the shift to Russian management coming far sooner than after the decades Falciola predicts. Holmes believes that as increasing numbers of locals enter the job market, "more and more high posts will go to Russians."

Falciola concedes that it could take just three to four years for many companies to replace second-level expatriate management with Russians.

Their motivation is easy to understand. Hiring foreigners is an expensive proposition, says Igor Anokhin, a consultant with the Russian placement agency Evromanagement. Anokhin said a mere 1 percent to 2 percent of his clients actually try to employ expats.

"A couple of years ago, any expat, even someone who was unemployed in his own country, found it easy to get a job here because there were practically no Russians who could fill those posts," said Anokhin. "Today there are a lot of Russians who can do just as good a job at a fraction of the cost."

But Anokhin said the expat employment market, though not rosy, is far from "catastrophic." There are openings for expats in very specific fields, like the construction sector, where Russians still aren't up to Western standards.

"Requirements have gone up. A successful candidate must have professional qualifications, work experience as well as language skills," Anokhin said.

He added that it will be at least three years before good foreign professionals experience difficulty finding employment in Russia.

Holmes noted that replacing foreign employees with locals was on the increase around the world.

"The highest jobs [in foreign firms] in any country will continue to be held by expats," he said. "I don't think Russians will ever replace foreigners completely."