Mobility is changing the way expats work

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 Global talent is on the move as the world comes out of recession and companies rethink where they need to base staff.

The number of expat workers is likely to increase by half over the next decade, according to research by consultancy firm PwC.

A study by the firm also predicts:

  • More than 66% of graduates want to work overseas at some stage – but only 11% want to go to India and 2% to China despite those nation’s taking the vanguard of economic growth
  • At least 15% of organisations cannot match plans for growth because of a lack of talent
  • Women will make up a quarter of all expat workers by 2020
  • The west to east brain drain will flow in the opposite direction

The conclusions come from the firm’s report Talent Mobility: 2020 and beyond based on responses from 900 global companies.

Parachute assignments

The research revealed that the traditional expat working pattern of three-year assignments in a single location has gone, and workers are more mobile and will parachute in to complete specific projects.

Instead they jet into different countries for short assignments as long distance commuters, perhaps only staying for two weeks or so.

Only 1% of expat workers are on static assignments, while the commuter expats account for 8% of the workforce.

The average posting time has dropped to 18 months.

Preferred destinations for expats are the US, UK and Australia.

The report also suggests that companies should look to a stream of well-educated and experienced workers coming out of Africa and Asia as a cheaper option than US or European expat workers.

Skills gap

Carol Stubbings, UK international assignment services leader at PwC, said: “Organisations across the world are identifying they do not have the right talent in the right places to support their growth potential.

“The new generation of international mobile workers have some solid ideas about where they want to work and how they will plug these skills gaps, and organisations may find they will have to adapt or miss out on the talent they need.

“Long assignments have gone. New ways of working are emerging dictated by the demands of organisations and employee preferences. Some do not want relocation, but prefer long-distance commuting or virtual working over the internet.

“This style of working will change the way expats work and allow organisations to cut their costs as they will not have the expense of long-term relocations to consider.”

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