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The Right Perks

Global hiring means getting a handle on how different cultures view salaries, taxes, and benefits

By Jena McGregor

Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen may be able to decide, as she did recently, that she would rather be paid in euros than once-mighty dollars. But for most mere mortals toiling away in cubicles around the globe, pay and benefits are a decidedly local affair. In Latin America, for instance, past financial crises mean employees aren’t much interested in deferred compensation plans such as 401(k)s, which are common in the U.S. Why be rewarded in stocks and bonds that could collapse?
As expat packages decline and global growth requires attracting local talent, employers that ignore local quirks do so at their own risk. Peter D. Acker, a global rewards consultant for Hewitt Associates, reports that he sees companies extend their stock-option plans around the world, thinking everyone will love them. But local tax treatments for such options mean that’s often not the case. Other companies, he says, have rolled out bonus plans in China that focus on individual performance, only to find that rewarding group achievements might have been a better cultural fit.
Using data from benefits consulting firm Mercer, we compiled snapshots of pay and perks in 10 countries, including benefits ranging from company-owned ski chalets in France to bodyguards and bulletproof cars for top executives in Brazil:

Data: Data are provided by Mercer, except where noted. Cost-of-living rank is based on Mercer’s 2007 survey of the comparative cost of cities for expatriates. Salaries represent midpoint annual base salaries, using exchange rates from local currencies to U.S. dollars on Jan. 14. Days off combine minimum vacation days required by law and public or nationally recognized holidays for employees working five days a week after 10 years’ service. China and the U.S. do not mandate vacation days nationally, but 15 days is common in the U.S. for employees with 10 years of service and 12 days is average in China, though numbers vary from city to city. Mercer notes that in Mexico, many companies supplement required public holidays with an additional 4 to 6 days.