The international job market is just that, a market driven by economic forces of supply and demand. Why do organizations hire Westerners and nations grant work visas? For our professional skills and products. Westerners are too expensive to hire as unskilled labor, but worth paying for our technology and our products. This demand fuels jobs for about 5,000,000 westerners overseas.
All countries protect jobs for their own people. Also, all countries go outside to meet real needs.
1. Vocational profile of the global job market. The need to develop is the primary force driving the job market in most developing nations. Development requires the transfer of technology and especially the training of any nation’s greatest resource—its people. Consequently, education at all levels is the single largest vocational field. Because English is crucial for globalization, English teaching is a huge arena all by itself. Further, as schools and other organizations overseas learn that they can get teachers who will work in their limited settings, the demand increases. Recently I have heard story after story of schools and universities asking tentmakers to help them find more teachers because they see what the tentmaker is providing. Especially at the university level, openings exist for almost all fields.
The second area providing international jobs is business and industry. There is tremendous demand in computers, communications, engineering, marketing, manufacturing, health care, and basic development. This is also considerable demand in banking, accounting, financial services, law, transportation, agriculture, tourism, and arts and media. Some vocations offer fewer openings like recreation and social services.
2. The two markets. There are essentially two overseas job markets, expatriate and local hire. The expatriate market pays Western wages in order to obtain qualified Western expertise and job openings are advertised publicly. The “local hire” expatriate market consists basically of local agencies which are open to hiring Westerners who are willing to work for local wages. Jobs in this market are not generally listed, but are discovered by networking. The President of Kyrgyzstan a few years ago wanted to hire 7,000 EFL teachers. But there is no way Kyrgyzstan could pay anything close to Western wages. There is similar interest in Kazakhstan and other countries. This is why it is not generally wise to go overseas to look for a job. You will not likely find a competitive Western job, will not be able to live on the income, and will harm your credibility if you take such a job and live on almost full support.
In reality, these two poles are oversimplified. Market forces drive this situation. Many organizations want more Westerners, but cannot afford any or many at Western salaries. So when Westerners are willing to work for less, they take them. Why do they work for less? Desire for travel, missions motivation, service motivation. For instance, a person can find numerous jobs that provide adequate income to live in China, though low by western standards. In other situations, a person will need supplemental support. In such settings, it is vital to negotiate hard for other forms of compensation like housing, in-country transportation rates, health care, etc. This lowers a person’s need for support and enhances credibility. Another caution should be added: Live appropriately to your role in the community. Identifying and connecting with the people is one of the great blessings of tent making. When tentmakers live beyond the means of their job, they undermine credibility and distance themselves from the people.
3. The four job providing entities. Basically four entities provide work to Westerners overseas: 1) international or local corporations, 2) indigenous national institutions like colleges, universities, and government agencies, 3) relief and development agencies, and 4) new start-up businesses. These are the arenas in which to look for jobs. Starting a business offers some wonderful advantages like ability to stay indefinitely and greater evangelistic freedom. However, it demands special skills and experience. More on this later.
4. Structural nature of the global job market. The international job market is very decentralized, fragmented, and unstructured. This is a natural result of specialization in skills and needs. With globalization and modern communication, it is easy for a university in Tajikistan to communicate with a chemical engineer in Idaho who is open to working there, but how do they find each other. Because of this challenge, the global job market is really a collection of hundreds or even thousands of relatively small, vertical job markets, which communicate through specialized networks, publications, websites, and job agencies. For this reason, it is vital for job seekers to take initiative and persist in pursuing all these channels.
5. Relatively closed character of the global job market. The job market tends to be closed to outsiders for a couple of reasons. First, western organizations have a strong tendency to promote and transfer from within for overseas jobs even when the person has little cross-cultural skill or experience. The reason for this is that organizations need people with intimate knowledge of the organization, its culture, products, services, and authority structure. The consequence of this approach is big adjustment problems and a high turnover rate for workers going overseas. Nevertheless, this pattern is likely to continue for some time. Some companies are recognizing the problem and a new industry is developing to provide cross-cultural training for employees.
The second reason for the relatively closed market is that there are few entry-level jobs for westerners. Generally openings require a bachelor’s plus two or more years experience in one’s field. This applies across the board with English teaching being the only exception. Almost any native English speaker can find a job teaching English somewhere, though qualifications are rising and pay is limited for those without TEFL certification. But going without good skills serves people poorly and dishonors Christ. In addition to vocational competency, employers often look for travel, overseas work experience, relational skills, and even language competency for obvious reasons.
6. Length of contracts. Overseas contracts tend to last 1-3 years. After that, a person must renew or find another job. Corporate jobs tend to last 1-3 years because they expect that employees will want to return home. Development agency jobs tend to be limited because they are tied to government grants and specific projects. Another factor is that national organizations want expatriates to equip their own people so that they can take over as soon as possible. The result of this trend is that international jobs and careers tend to evolve unpredictably and require ongoing changes. Since many jobs actually isolate people from the larger global job market, it is imperative to develop a broad range of contacts and keep one’s ears open to impending vacancies. Networking is indispensable. Furthermore, most job moves tend to be horizontal rather than hierarchical because most jobs are oriented toward delivering specialized direct services. Only larger corporations and government agencies provide more vertical job changes. However, such changes usually move people away from direct work in the field where many find greater satisfaction and excitement. Again, running a business is a big contrast to this.