International Expat Assignments on the Rise

New research indicates that companies throughout the world are increasing the number of international positions that are on offer to expatriate workers.

The Worldwide International Assignments Policies and Practices report (WIAPP), which was compiled be international human resource company Mercer, indicates that 70% of those companies surveyed will be increasing the number of short-term expatriate assignments that are available in 2013, while the number of long-term placements will increase by 55%.

The report, which analyses the expatriate policies and practices adopted by major corporations throughout the world, highlighted the fact that the number of overseas placements on offer to executives has gradually increased over the past two years and that China, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia are the destinations that expatriates favor.

Discussing the results, Anne Rossier-Renaud, principal in Mercer’s global mobility business said: “International assignments have become diverse in order to meet evolving business and global workforce needs. Relatively low pay increases in some regions, and pressure on companies to attract and retain talent, have spurred many to embrace a wider range of global mobility strategies to incentivise high performers.

“Mobility and HR directors now face great complexity in the number and type of international assignments that need managing.”

The WIAPP report contains comprehensive data pertaining to the latest trends in international assignment programme management, policies, and practices. This years report examined the reasons why corporations employ overseas workers and cited five top reasons for such recruitment trends:


  • To provide specific technical skills not available locally (47 percent)
  • To provide career management/leadership development (43 percent)
  • To ensure knowledge transfer (41 percent)
  • To fulfill specific project needs (39 percent)
  • To provide specific managerial skills not available locally (38 percent).

According to the report, expatriate overseas assignments are becoming increasingly short term and the average duration of each placement is now slightly lower than it was three years ago, with the placements generally lasting between one year, five months and five years, four months. The report also established that more females are taking overseas assignments, although this figure has increased by only 3% to 13% since 2011.


Discussing the factors that impact employee’s willingness to relocate, Mercer indicated that family-related issues, such as concerns over children’s education or partners who do not wish to relocate, remain a major obstacle to employee mobility.

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