· News

International assignments are expected to increase by 50% over the next decade, says PwC report

The movement of staff across borders is set to increase, leading to more use of short-term and 'commuter' international assignments, research shows.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the globally-connected nature of trade, technology, capital, coupled with the rise of emerging markets, increased focus on new revenue streams and changing demographic imperatives are projected to increase the number of people working outside their home country by 50% over the next decade.  

Additionally, the number of countries that employers host employees is expected to continue to increase, presenting new compliance, remuneration and communication challenges. PwC data documents the impact of globalisation showing an increase from an average of 13 locations in 1998 to 22 in 2009 and an expectation that this will rise to 33 by 2020.  

The report - Talent Mobility 2020: The Next Generation of International Assignments - is based on trend data regarding international assignments for 900 companies, population data and the opinions of both CEOs and workers around the globe.

CEOs identify having the right talent in the right place as a critical factor for business growth with over half (55%) of recently surveyed CEOs planning to reconsider their approach to global mobility as a result of the downturn.  It is clear that businesses recognise both the economic benefit of international assignments and the need to evolve the way they are managed and used.   

Carol Stubbings, international mobility partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: "While we're not consigning existing international work models to the history books, governments and companies will have to work together to manage some of the barriers to international mobility that will otherwise impede global competition and operations.

"As companies venture into underdeveloped locations, organisations and governments would benefit from sustainable co-investment in the infrastructure needed for individuals to live and do work comfortably - this might extend to schooling and training, medical facilities or entertainment.     

"Ideally, the movement of employees and executives between countries will be fluid and characterised by collaboration, not by onerous and costly administration."  

The survey also shows the new generation of workers ‘the millennials' see overseas working as an important part of their personal development.  PwC research (into the expectations of 4,200 graduates) shows 80% want to work abroad, with 70% expecting to use a non-native language at work and 94% expecting to work across geographic borders more than their parents.

Carol Stubbings, international mobility partner PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said: "Younger employees' appetite for working overseas could eventually remove the need for financial enticement, but current immigration and tax systems, combined with the need for certain skills or experience levels, can make deploying staff around the world complex and costly. Articulating shared values will be increasingly important, as loyalty is even harder to foster across borders.   

"On the positive side, technology is evolving to ease compliance and tracking burdens.  The eventual harmonisation of living standards and remuneration across some skillsets and industries will also make things easier."