Number of expatriate postings likely to increase


Four out of ten international companies plan to increase their expatriate staff over the next five years – but the nature of expatriate assignments is changing.

According to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the movement of expatriates around the globe looks set to remain strong, despite the impact of the global recession.

Though only 13 per cent of companies featured in the study said they had expanded their number of expatriate staff over the past two years, 39 per cent plan to increase their overseas staff levels over the next five years.

The report revealed that most companies are neglecting Western markets in order to send expatriates to developing markets such as India, Africa, and China, and that that four in five executives believe a stint overseas can improve a worker’s chances of career progression.

The survey also showed that the typical “expat package” offered by companies is changing.

Though more than 50 per cent of expat postings still last the traditional length of two to five years, there has been an increase in short-term assignments and “commuter” packages for expats whose families remain in their home country.

Mark Dixon, global CEO of serviced office provider Regus, which comissioned the research, said: “Though companies have global strategies, business is conducted locally, and companies are increasingly keen on using local talent. Instead of being left in a country for a long time, there is now a tendency for expats to set up a project, and then move on.”

The report also showed an increase in the number of junior staff taking positions abroad, and a shift from the traditional model of expatriates being sent overseas by a company. More expatriates now choose to move abroad first, and then find a job after they have arrived.

More than half the companies offered relocation costs, medical cover and a housing allowance, but less than half paid school fees or “hardship bonuses” for moving.

Paul Lewis, managing editor of executive briefing at the Economic Intelligence Unit and editor of the report, said: “As the world is becoming more globalised, expatriate strategy is changing. Expatriate jobs are no longer considered ‘hardship postings’ but are in demand, especially among younger people.

“This in turn has affected the level of renumeration expats expect to receive – people no longer receive all the benefits which used to be standard.”

The report also focused on the difficulties faced by modern expats in the workplace. Three in five expatriates said that that their corporate headquarters did not understand the nature of their local business environment, while one in two identified “cultural or national conflicts between staff” as their greatest difficulty.

Overall, 73 per cent of respondents saw “cultural sensitivity” as an expat’s greatest asset – more than foreign language skills (32 per cent) or previous experience of living or working abroad (39 per cent).

Up or Out; Next Moves for the Modern Expatriate by the Economist Intelligence Unit in association with Regus was based on interviews with 418 executives working in 77 different countries in July 2010.


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