As procurement and supply chains have expanded globally over recent decades, overseas career opportunities have increased with them. About half of the jobs currently available through Langley Search and Selection are international roles – many of which are very highly paid, and offer a higher salary than equivalent UK roles.
However, the wealth of opportunities doesn’t mean the decision to emigrate should be taken lightly. Whether you have a family or you’re moving alone, it’s a decision that requires a lot of research and careful thought.
It is crucial to look beyond the headline pay package. Typically, international pay appears very generous, offering far higher salaries than equivalent roles in the UK. The problem is that to compare a UK salary to an overseas salary, you need to be aware of components of the salary, such as social security benefits and income taxes and the local cost of living, that may not be immediately obvious.
In Europe, high salaries might disguise higher tax costs or social security contributions. Elsewhere, a high salary might disguise a lack of benefits – you may end up paying for expensive healthcare costs out of your own pocket.
Living costs are a crucial factor: your hard-earned income might get you further in some places than others. Global HR consultancy Mercer’s 2012 cost of living survey names London as only the world’s 25th most expensive city to live in; Geneva, Zurich, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Moscow all appear in the top 10. Shanghai, Beijing, and Rio are more expensive places for expats to live than London.
Many companies now offer comprehensive re-settlement packages to help expat employees adjust to their new country, but this doesn’t make up for first- or second-hand experience.
Those interested in working overseas need to investigate living costs as fully as they can: healthcare, housing and education costs will all differ from one country to the next. Often, the best solution is to contact those that have already worked in a particular country to find out about their experiences.
Finally, working overseas can cause tax headaches in the UK. Sending money home or even protecting overseas income from UK taxes once you have decided to return requires careful planning and a good understanding of tax rules. For example, returning to the UK after less than a year abroad can result in a UK tax liability on overseas earnings.
Working overseas can be a great adventure, and there are more opportunities than ever before, but it’s important that people look before they leap. Do your homework and your time overseas will be a very rewarding experience.
☛ Christina Langley is managing director at Langley Search and Selection, a partner of CIPS Recruitment.
☛ Looking to move overseas? Supply Management Jobs currently has international vacancies in a host of locations such as Canada, Ireland, Russia, Switzerland, Singapore and the US.