Expats in Russia earn more

The 2009 Expat Explorer survey, commissioned by HSBC International, shows that a third of the expats working in Russia earn more than $250,000 per year.

That pushed the Russian expat experience into top place for earnings, with 30% of the expat respondents raking in more than a cool quarter million, ahead of Hong Kong (27%), Japan (26%), Switzerland (25%) and India (25%).

The survey considered 4 key criteria – an income in excess of US $200,000, monthly disposable income in excess of $3000, an increase in saving while living/working abroad, and having at least 2 luxury items in the country they live in – and also concluded that 97% of expats in Russia were able to save more than they were in their country of origin, putting it into second position behind Qatar (98%). Less positively, putting them in 3rd position behind their counterparts working in the U.S. and Japan, 73% of expats working in Russia had been affected by the credit crunch, but they were resilient with 45% of expats in Russia being least likely to cut down on luxuries.

Zhanna Volkova, Marketing Manager at Kelly Services, Russia, says the findings of the survey aren't that surprising, with expat numbers in Russia comprised largely of senior managers and specialised technicians, and that these generally look for comparable remuneration packages to those they would receive in their homelands.

“Expats in Russia really earn more than their Russian collegues. This happens simply because salaries in Russia and in the rest of Europe differ significantly, so moving to Russia from a foreign office within an international company an employee expects the same money for his work which is more abroad than in our country. Another case includes specialists we don’t actually have at all in Russia or their skills are of a far worse quality, mostly engineers and top managers.”

Johan Sekora, Head of the HSBC's retail operations in Russia, and who's originally from Sweden, clarified the list is not of the wealthiest, but more of a ranking of lifestyles.

“The lifestyle doesn't differ much from country to country and what we're seeing is that it's becoming more competitive on a global basis regardless of what country you're living in.”

So-called expats in Russia can be classified into two categories – traditional, who aren't necessarily attracted to the market and need to be attracted, and local – who have spent time in the country and want to stay.

Allan Sullivan, Head of the Legal Department, at recruiters, Staffwell, came to Moscow 15 years ago – and his been here ever since. He says the outlook for expats has seen changes over that time.

“One factor on the reduced number of opportunities today compared to 15 years ago clearly is the market had the benefit of 15 years of experience. People have developed during that period. And frankly there are people who fulfill the jobs.”

Of those polled in the Expat Explorer Survey, 73% of foreign workers in Russia polled said they'd been affected by the credit crunch, but 83% said they intend to stay regardless.