Chinese, Indian engineers expand wish list

TechOnline India - November 30, 2009

Engineers in China and India want more--more money, more societal recognition, higher positions at their employers.

(Editor's note: A full analysis of the 2009 EE Times Global Salary & Opinion Survey is available here.)

Engineers in China and India want more--more money, more societal recognition, higher positions at their employers. And they want to establish their own companies, too, conceivably to compete with their onetime employers.

Some of those wishes are already being granted, according to the 2009 EE Times Global Salary & Opinion Survey. Salaries for engineers in China and India have risen strongly over the past five years, at a faster clip than for their counterparts in Europe, Japan and North America. Almost half of the respondents to our survey in China and about 40 percent of those in India said their annual salaries are now much higher or slightly higher than they were five years ago, vs. the 34 percent and 25 percent, respectively, so reporting in Europe and North America.

Competition for engineering talent in China and India has stiffened over the past decade as hardware and software companies have accelerated the transfer of manufacturing and design operations from Western locations to lower-cost parts of the globe. Although both China and India are turning out new engineers by the thousands each year, demand for skilled and experienced engineers is so strong that many positions are going unfilled, forcing companies to raid their competitors for talent. Often, companies offer attractive incentives to secure experienced engineers, only to lose them to rivals after a couple of years.

Although high-tech employers in China and India have indeed been raising compensation for local employees, many engineers in the two countries still earn considerably less than their counterparts elsewhere, and that salary gulf is driving a wedge between employers and employees.

While most of the engineers polled by EE Times seem satisfied with their career choice, many in China and India believe they can do better and do not consider their current compensation packages adequate or equitable with their foreign colleagues' compensation. A disproportionate number of respondents in China (56 percent) and India (61 percent) believe they earn "less than others in the field with the same qualifications and work experience." By comparison, only 44 percent and 34 percent, respectively, of European and North American respondents think they earn less than similarly qualified counterparts.

The result of this real or perceived inequality is that many Chinese and Indian engineers are rethinking their choice of engineering as a career.

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Only 24 percent of the respondents in China and 39 percent in India described themselves as satisfied with their careers and employers--well below the 68 percent each of respondents so reporting in Europe and North America. Consequently, about one-fourth (24 percent) of respondents in China said they were actively exploring opportunities at other companies, and an even greater number (39 percent) expressed the desire to switch careers. Among the Indian engineers polled, 35 percent are seeking a job change, but only 13 percent are considering a career change.

Only 5 percent of engineers who took the survey in North America said were pondering a career change. And in Europe, 13 percent are looking for new jobs, but only 7 percent are exploring opportunities outside the industry.

The depth of the dissatisfaction among China's engineers could spell trouble for its industry down the road. Only 42 percent of Chinese respondents said they "would recommend engineering to my kids," compared with 74 percent of respondents each in India and North America, 65 percent in Europe and 54 percent in Japan.

It's not that employers in China and India aren't trying; the average base salary percentage increases over the past year reported by engineers in China (6 percent) and India (7.9 percent) exceeded those for respondents in Europe, Japan and North America. But employers in the two countries have their work cut out for them if they hope to ensure an adequate pool of qualified workers going forward.

Meanwhile, in many cases the surveyed engineers who are paid the least also aspire to scale the corporate ladder the highest. Most of the respondents in China and India said they hoped to ascend through the management ranks, with many aiming for positions as lofty as chief technical officer, entrepreneur, president, CEO or similar top management roles. Almost 30 percent of Indian and 26 percent of Chinese respondents hope to set up their own businesses, compared with 10 percent and 16 percent, respectively, of European and North American engineers.

In India, 25 percent of respondents hope to rise to the position of president or CEO, vs. 13 percent in China, 11 percent in Europe and 9 percent in North America. But more Europeans, by far, than any other group--33 percent--aspire to the position of CTO, while 22 percent are looking for promotions to senior engineer and 13 percent seek to become consultants.


See also:
Engineers take a bad year in stride

What ails Japanese engineers?

'Hot' tech markets leave Chinese EEs cold

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