Expat Assignments Expand, Extend

March 6, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The use of international assignments is not only growing, its role is changing, according to ORC Worldwide's 2006 Worldwide Survey of International Assignment Policies and Practices.

The survey found that 56% of companies have increased expatriate usage. Companies with a larger expatriate population most often use international assignments for early career development or training, whereas among companies with fewer than 250 expatriates, the most common purpose for an overseas assignment is to fill a senior management role, according to a press release.

In fact, among worldwide survey participants, the percentage of companies indicating they have expatriates on short-term assignments, with lengths defined by the majority as up to 12 months, has increased over the last six years. Last year 78% of the companies surveyed acknowledge use of short-term assignments, up slightly from 75% in 2004, but up strongly from 66% 59% in 2002 and 2000, respectively.

Separate policies for commuters, or employees who generally live in one country, work in another, and make frequent trips to the same work location, are also becoming a more common phenomenon, as indicated by 26% of respondent companies worldwide.

According to ORC, the Middle East is increasingly becoming a “hot spot” for expatriates, despite escalating political and security challenges in the region. Not surprisingly, that trend was especially pronounced among employers in the mining and oil industry, which accounted for 60% of the expatriates assigned to the region. While Western Europe had the highest number of expatriates in 2006 – both as a home location and an assignment location – the most prevalent home location of Middle Eastern assignees is the United States, followed by Western Europe.

ORC Worldwide provides human resource management consulting and data services to large and mid-sized organizations around the globe.