A global shortage of executive talent is forcing companies to be much more accommodating as increasingly restless senior managers demand less travel and more flexibility, executive search firms say.

The boot is on the other foot, Peter Felix, president of the New York-based Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), said in Hong Kong on Wednesday. An executive will say: I don't want to move to Kazakhstan, can I do the job from London? and the company will say, well, maybe you can.

Pressure to retain talent is intense with an AESC survey showing that 75 percent of executives are actively or passively looking for another job and 40 percent of employers worldwide say they have difficulty finding talent.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they were concerned about their work-life balance and 48 percent of male executives demanded less travel. They do, however, want responsibility and Felix said giving executives more independence to run their operations can be a way to retain talent.

The survey covered about 1,000 executives globally.

Executives in Asia want overseas postings while their counterparts in Europe would rather stay put, Felix said.

However, companies in North America and Europe that previously benefited from an influx of top talent from overseas -- 25 percent of Silicon Valley companies for instance were started by Indians and Chinese -- now face an exodus of talent as those people see more exciting opportunities back home.

Demand for executives in China, India, Russia and central Europe is huge, Felix said.

Demand for trained managerial talent in China is so acute that it could take 20 years to resolve, he said. The shortage is inflating salaries and job titles and creating huge job mobility whereby managers can be lured by a higher-paying job within less than two years, meaning they achieve little while in the post.

In the United States the talent shortage would be made worse by the Bush administration's decision to cut the number of company-sponsored U.S. visas to fresh graduates each year to 60,000 from 180,000 for security reasons.

Even 180,000 is not that many, said Felix. It's total insanity. You don't want to damage your reputation as the place to go. The U.S .Bureau of Labor forecasts there will be 10 million open job positions in the United States by 2010, rising to 35 million by 2030.