By Clay Chandler

Clay is an author, editor and fellow at Hult International Business School where he follows technology, economics and global business. He is a former Asia editor at McKinsey & Company, and has held senior editorial roles at Fortune, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Twitter @claychandler

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Fun while it lasted.

When Western multinationals embraced the idea of globalization two decades ago, many struggled to find capable managers to run operations in the emerging markets hailed as the new frontier of global growth. In the headquarters of giant companies in North America and Western Europe, top executives griped that there seemed to be an inverse ratio between potential for market growth and ease of recruiting managerial talent. In the most promising big markets – China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia – the pool of skilled local managers was tiny, while living standards remained so rugged that it was almost impossible to persuade experienced managers from mature home markets to relocate.

To plug the managerial talent gap, many big multinationals resorted to a costly but effective expedient: proffering lavish expatriate packages to Western managers willing to accept temporary assignments in emerging markets.

The perks of expat life were ample. Typically, expat packages offered to middle managers of Fortune 500 multinationals included: substantial allowances for housing, health care, currency fluctuation, and travel; free global tax assistance; company payment of fees for international schools; private club memberships; and first-class airfare for annual home leave. In essence, many big Western employers resigned themselves to the notion that the only way to lure top managers to work in high-growth developing economies was to insulate them from any sacrifice in their developed world lifestyles.

The global financial crisis put an end to that largesse. Many Western firms scaled back overseas operations and eliminated expat luxuries. Pricey expat packages have become even harder for multinationals to justify over the past year, with growth sputtering in emerging markets like China, Russia, and Brazil.

Executives at ECA International, a company that helps multinationals manage expat assignments, estimate that five years ago the majority of expats in Asia were Westerners on short-term assignments with multinational corporations that offered generous packages for housing, schooling, and travel. But by the end of last year, ECA officials told the Wall Street Journal, only around 30 to 40 percent of the expat populations of Singapore, Hong Kong, and mainland China fit that description.

UniGroup Relocation, which offers expat relocation services, says its customer data indicates that in 2014, expat departures from China exceeded arrivals by two to one.

Irish Times Shanghai correspondent Clifford Coonan, observing the transformation during his years in China, concludes: “The days when an MBA stepped off a plane and into a job in a Chinese firm, barking orders in English and avoiding banquets and other cultural mainstays as unnecessary, are over.”

Of course, slower growth in emerging markets isn’t the only factor contributing to expat exit from emerging markets. Many departing expats say they are fed up with worsening living conditions. In China, grievances include gridlocked traffic in the major cities, restricted Internet access, and horrific air pollution. Air quality is also an issue for expats in India and other Southeast Asian cities.

The days when an MBA stepped off a plane and into a job in a Chinese firm barking orders in English are over.

Another key reason for expat departures from emerging markets is the rise of a new generation of local managers. Some of these are what Jeffrey Joerres, former CEO of Manpower, a leading global provider of employment services, has called “reverse expats”: emerging market natives who earned college or graduate degrees in the West and often have work experience with large firms in developing markets, but are now returning to their home countries. Typically, reverse expats don’t need the packages demanded by their Western predecessors. Many multinationals are finding that those returnees’ language skills, cultural knowledge, and relationships make them not only less expensive than their expat counterparts but also more effective.

The pool of qualified local managers trained in their own countries has expanded as well, thanks partly to the growth and improvement of local universities and business programs, but also reflecting decades of local talent development programs by Western multinationals. Local employers are also investing in management training programs. Lenovo, the Chinese computer maker, offers a variety of career development programs for promising employees. Pantaloons, the Indian clothing retailer, has a two-year in-house management program.

“I firmly believe we are nearing the end of the line… for Western expatriate managers,” declared Manpower’s Joerres in a 2011 essay in the McKinsey Quarterly. “Only by taking a long-term approach of cultivating local leaders can organizations unleash the potential of their workforces in emerging markets.”

Although some expats are exiting emerging markets, they’re hardly extinct. In the years since the global financial crisis, many of the original wave of Western expats have decided to stay on, accepting smaller or no benefit packages rather than return to their home markets. Recently, the ranks of those resilient ‘permapats’ have been joined by a growing number of new graduates from Western countries, especially from Europe where there are fewer job opportunities, who have moved to Asia on their own in search of better prospects.

Nor are cushy expat packages a relic of the past. Fewer expats may be getting them, but those who are seem amply compensated. ECA’s most recent survey found that the value of the expat package offered to a typical middle manager in mainland China was about $325,000, while the typical package of middle managers in Brazil was worth nearly $300,000, and that of counterparts in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam was worth roughly $250,000.

The bottom line, then, is that in emerging markets, the glorious days of the Western expat are done. Multinationals from North America and Western Europe are loath to shell out hundreds of thousands to move managers from the developed world to emerging markets, particularly when growth in those markets is slowing and employers enjoy far better options for hiring talented local managers. What hasn’t changed, though, is that big multinationals struggling to retain their edge in increasingly competitive emerging markets are still paying handsomely to get the right people with the right skills into the right markets at the right time. If you are one of the lucky few, a fat salary, generous housing allowance, and swanky club memberships can all be part of the package.