Expatriate Benefits Improve as Assignments Double

October 27, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Mercer's 2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees indicates 86% of companies consider benefit provision for expatriate employees a medium or high business priority.

According to a press release, the majority of companies surveyed keep their expatriates in host or home country retirement plans; however, 32% offer international plans – an increase from 23% in 2005. Close to three-quarters (73%) of companies with an international plan restrict eligibility to certain expatriates who cannot be kept in the home or host plan.

In addition, the majority of respondents provide medical benefits for their expatriates, whether via international plans or via home- or host-country plans. However, more than 80% do not consider the local social security provision when providing these benefits – an integration which could help companies achieve cost savings.

Eighty-six percent of respondents cover their expatriates for death benefits, and long-term disability benefits are provided by more than three-quarters of participating companies (78%), the press release said. North American companies are more likely to offer benefits at a cost to the employee, typically by way of deductibles or co-payments.

Measuring Success

When asked to rate the success factors for their expatriate benefits plan, survey participants ranked supporting the company’s business and HR strategies the highest (63%). Being valued by employees and remaining cost effective were also deemed important factors (59% each). However, the survey found that nearly two-thirds of companies (64%) have no specific procedures in place to measure the success of their expatriate benefit programs.

Mercer's 2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees found the number of employees on international assignments has doubled over the last three years as part of the continuing trend towards globalization.

According to the survey report, 47% of companies said they had increased the deployment of traditional expatriates (employees on 1 - 5 year assignments), and 38% reported an increase in "global nomads" (employees that continuously move from country to country on multiple assignments).

"The desire to be globally competitive has driven growth in expatriate assignments. As companies launch new ventures overseas, they continue to bring experts from their other locations to lead projects on a short-term basis, rather than rely on local talent," said Duncan Smithson, leader of Mercer's international consulting business in the Midwest, in a press release.

Mercer's survey, conducted every three years, covers 243 multinational companies worldwide, including over 94,000 expatriates (compared to 50,000 in 2005/2006).

Copies of the survey report are available from www.imercer.com/expatbenefits or by calling 800-333-3070.