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Four out of 10 companies are planning to increase the number of their expatriate staff

International companies are expecting to post many more executives abroad in the next five years.

According to a report, Up or Out: Next Moves for the Modern Expatriate, from the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Regus, four out of 10 (39%) of companies plan to increase their expatriate staff over the next five years, according to the survey of 418 senior executives with responsibility for overseas offices.

Paul Lewis, managing editor of Executive Briefing at the Economic Intelligence Unit and editor of the report, said: "Expatriate strategies provide an insight into broader trends in globalisation whether it’s the regions companies are investing in or the daily operational challenges involved in setting up an office."

Executives are keen to be part of the global and mobile working trend. Four in five executives believe that an assignment in a "major emerging market" aids career progression.

Companies are far more likely to send expatriate staff to China, India and other Asian countries than to any other emerging market region. The Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe combined are the next most common destinations

And around three in five expatriates believe their corporate HQ does not sufficiently grasp the nature of the local business environment. One in three complains of excessive interference.

More than half of expatriates are sent to a particular destination for a period of between two and five years. But there has been a rise in flexible working practices such as short-term and ‘commuter’ assignments and nearly three-quarters of survey respondents believe that ‘cultural sensitivity’ is the most important attribute of an expatriate.

Getting the right talent in the right place for the right length of time involves an array of decisions and experimentation around the design of expatriate assignments, and the location and nature of these roles.

Mark Dixon, global CEO of Regus, added: "This survey shows that globalisation is forcing companies to review their approach to where they locate their operations and how they manage HR and property. The needs of global, mobile and flexible workers are exacerbating the challenge of providing a right-sized workplace infrastructure for a reasonable cost. By using this survey to explore the pressures faced by businesses and their expatriate staff, we can help them deal with the challenges."