Vietnam - new El Dorado for aviation expatsIn March, 2015 a Vietnam Airlines pilot and an attendant were arrested under the suspicion of gold smuggling into South Korea. It has been the second case when Vietnam Airlines crew resorted to such illegal measures to supplement their income in less than six months. While it may seem as a pure coincidence to some, the situation in the flight crew segment of Vietnam may be the underlying reason for succumbing to the temptation. Currently, local aviation workers in the country are earning 4 times less than their expat colleagues, making the market a tough place for locals and a paradise for foreigners.

According to IATA, in 2008-2013 the air passenger traffic in Vietnam increased by more than 96% and there is no reason to expect a slowdown in growth any time soon. The local economy will continue on an upward trend as nearly all of businesses in the country are expected to enjoy an increase in profits in the upcoming year. As the local enterprises continue to thrive, the country is becoming increasingly attractive to foreign investors. As approx. two thirds of foreigners arrive to Vietnam by air, it is safe to say that the golden age for the country’s aviation sector is unlikely to come to an end any time soon. 

“While the rapidly developing aviation acts as a powerful booster to the local economy and vice versa, the increasing passenger traffic does not come without certain challenges. The country is already faced with the lack of aviation professionals and the issue cannot be resolved by solely relying on expat employees to fill in the increasing number of vacancies,” comments Skaiste Knyzaite, the CEO of “What Vietnam needs is a long-term oriented coherent approach to aviation specialist training, as the currently insufficient number of training facilities means that most Vietnam schools, owned by airlines, are forced to push pilots into signing 15-year long contracts. Otherwise, they would be simply unable to “re-pay” for the training.” 

At the moment, becoming a pilot in Vietnam costs up to USD 100 000. Considering the fact that the national average monthly salary in the country is around USD 150, it is clear Skaiste Knyzaite_CEO of AviationCVthat far from many families can afford to even partially cover the price of aviation studies. “As a result, the development of new talent is far outpaced by the demand and it automatically invokes the need for expats. And foreigners seem to be quite drawn to the opportunity of being a part of such vibrant and versatile country as Vietnam,” says S.Knyzaite.

According to ASEAN Business outlook 2015, almost all (95%) expats living in Vietnam are satisfied with their assignments and are planning to extend their stay. That is not surprising, knowing that in most cases one can cover the monthly rent, utilities and food expenses with around one tenth of a foreign pilot’s salary. The cost of living in the country is almost 30% lower than that in China and mind-boggling 70% lower than the one in the UK. And there is much more for expats in Vietnam than just a low cost of living.

In fact, Vietnam is currently ranked in the top 20 of places to live for expats. Moreover, it is the number one place in the entire world for making new friends and the 3rd in terms of mostly enjoyed local food (acc. to HSBC Expat Explorer Survey). And this is on top of the fact that Vietnam is the second cheapest place globally when it comes to the price of quality schools and kindergartens, which is of particular importance to those moving to another country together with the family. 

“With the local temperature rarely exceeding or significantly falling below the comfy 30 Degrees Celsius and the 2000 miles’ long line of stunning beaches, Vietnam is like an El Dorado for foreigners,” shares Skaiste Knyzaite, the CEO of ”Nonetheless, some expats, especially the first-timers, may face certain challenges related to job contract arrangements, as well as proper working and living conditions. Those who are already aware of the specifics of the highly diverse Asian Pacific cultures, tend to entrust their expatriation process to highly reputable and experienced HR agencies with a strong regional know-how,” concludes S. Knyzaite.

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