International Assignments

 

Duration

Until last year, the typical duration for international assignments among most firms was 1-3 years. This fell notably in 2015 (44% vs. 59%) and remains lower in 2016 (48%). The remaining half of firms are now split nearly evenly between assignments that are less than a year (25%) or three years or longer (27%).

  • Small and mid-size firms use shorter international assignments far more often than large firms (40% and 34% vs. 10%). The use of short assignments is nearly equal to the popularity of standard assignment lengths at small firms (40% vs. 36%), but has fallen out of favor among large firms, compared to last year (10% vs. 33%) returning closer to historical norms. Overall, use of shorter assignments by mid-size and small firms remains roughly double or more than it was 2-3 years ago.
  • Standard assignment lengths (1-3 years) are still much more popular than alternate lengths among large firms, with 57% reporting them as typical, far more than at mid-size firms (44%) or small firms (36%).
  • Use of longer term assignments as “typical” among mid-size and large firms fell to nearly half of that of recent years in 2015, and while it has increased slightly in 2016 it remains markedly lower overall. However, among large firms it returns to a third, rebounding from 23% in 2015 and at typical averages of the previous 2-3 years.
  • Overall, firms estimate around five out of ten relocations were traditional long-term assignments of 1-3 years, one-sixth were short-term, and roughly a fourth were permanent transfers. Almost one in ten were another type of assignment (commuter, rotational, etc.). Interestingly, 40% of small and large firms and 50% of mid-size firms expect the use of short-term/temporary assignments to increase this year.
Question 43c
What is the typical international relocation assignment duration for employees at your company?
Chart Q43c
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Question 43d-1
In 2015, what percentage of your international relocations were...
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Question 43d-2
In 2015, what percentage of your international relocations were...
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Question 43e
Do you expect the number of international short-term/temporary assignments in 2016 to...
Chart Q43e
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Destination

The volume of relocations into the United States made it one of last year’s top international destinations again this year as more than a fourth indicate this was a destination of their company's international transfers. Relocations originating in the U.S. went to many regions, with Canada (34%), Asia (29%), United Kingdom (23%), Western Europe (22%) and Eastern Europe (22%) rounding out the top six. The United States was again the top region for intraregional transfers of expatriates, indicating both immigration to the U.S. and movement of foreign nationals within the U.S. remain markedly higher for the second year (34% vs. 39% in 2014). Asia came in second place for intraregional transfers (28%), followed closely by Canada (25%). The United States and the United Kingdom were the top destinations for interregional transfers (31% and 30%), followed closely by Asia (26%), Canada (24%), Western Europe (22%) and Eastern Europe (21%). However, if European destinations were combined (U.K., Eastern and Western Europe), it would eclipse other regions across all types of international relocations.

Question 12b-1
Most frequent destinations of transfer in 2015: within the U.S
Chart Q12b
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Question 12b-2
Most frequent destinations of transfer in 2015: between U.S. and another country
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Question 12b-3
Most frequent destinations of transfer in 2015: between U.S. and another country
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Question 12b-4
Most frequent destinations of transfer in 2015: within a single foreign country
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Question 12b-5
Most frequent destinations of transfer in 2015: within a single foreign country
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Question 12b-6
Most frequent destinations of transfer in 2015: between two foreign countries
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Question 12b-7
Most frequent destinations of transfer in 2015: between two foreign countries
Chart Q12b7
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Policy

The majority of firms, regardless of size, use tiers within their different policies (overall, permanent transfer, localization, and intraregional). On average, each type of policy has slightly more than two tiers. For overall policy, the top two criteria, regardless of company size, are position/job title (59%) and job/grade level (52%), similar to domestic policy criteria (57% and 55%). However, assignment length (38%), assignment location/region (37%) and assignment objectives (34%) carry much more weight internationally than domestically (24%, 23% and 17%), while the relative weights of other factors are more similar between international and domestic status.

For the second year in a row, the vast majority of firms, near the highest percentages historically, report differences between domestic and international policies. Dramatic increases among small firms account for most of these differences. However, even as more firms differentiate policies, the percentages of those offering additional tax considerations is similar to last year and far lower than two years ago (42% vs. 44% and 61%) as are those making allowances for children to attend certain schools (39% vs. 42% and 54%). Other policy considerations are similar to last year and retain stark increases compared to two years ago: additional leave time (33% vs. 28% and 18%) and extended per diems (24% vs. 28% and 11%). Firms maintained increases in financial services assistance compared to previous levels (36% vs. 18% in 2012) while many other considerations remain below historical highs. However, the number of those offering financial assistance, security support programs, and extended per diems are close to historical highs (36% vs. 39%, 26% vs. 31%, 24% vs. 28%, respectively). The percentages of firms offering higher relocation allowances (42%) or higher rent allowances (38%) internationally remain near historically normative levels as well. A new policy consideration this year–international transportation allowance (i.e., rental car, commuting costs, etc.)—is offered by about four out of ten firms across company size.

  • While the percentage of small firms offering policy considerations reached historical highs over the last two years, certain aspects drop considerably compared to last year: allowances for children to attend certain schools (15% vs. 29%), security support program (9% vs. 22%), and intercultural language training (13% vs. 22%). However, those offering additional leave time continue to increase (34% vs. 25%) approaching historic highs after the dramatic lows of 2010-2014 (8%+). Increased allowances for permanent storage also rebounds to a near historic high after major cuts the past three years (36% vs. 14%+).
  • While most offerings for mid-size firms remain similar to last year, policy considerations dip notably in some areas: allowances for children to attend certain schools (29% vs. 40%), additional leave time that includes a visit back to home country (25% vs. 43%), and security support systems (22% vs. 37%). School allowances and leave time changes show marked declines from historical averages. However, security support systems remains slightly above all previous years except 2015.
  • Policy considerations at large firms remain similar to last year for nearly all categories with three exceptions: financial services assistance (50% vs. 41%) and additional leave time (33% vs. 23%), which increase markedly, and extended per diems (23% vs. 32%) which decrease. The largest percentage of large firms historically offer financial services assistance. While the increase in additional leave time is notable compared to recent years, it’s still roughly half that of 2003-2007 (62% on average). Also, while those offering extended per diems dropped from the historical high of 2015, the percentage still doing so is within historically normative ranges overall.
Question 43i-1
Does your company's international relocation policy offer...
Chart Q43i1
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Question 43i-2
Does your company's international relocation policy offer...
Chart Q43i2
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