Singapore - Business globalisation has led to a twofold increase in the number of employees sent on international assignments within the last three years, yet expat benefits are not catching up.
Conducted every three years, Mercer's 2008/2009 Benefits Survey for Expatriates and Globally Mobile Employees found 47% of 243 multinational companies (MNCs) polled have doubled the deployment of expatriates, tasked with traditional one to five-year assignments to drive growth. There are 94,000 expatriates now compared to 50,000 in 2005/2006. Another 38% of respondents also increased numbers of their corporate "global nomads", who move from country to country on multiple assignments for the same company.
However, expatriate benefits are not progressing with the rise of international assignments. Only 86% of respondents consider expat benefit provisions a medium or high business priority with 26% even admitting to having no international policy for providing expatriate benefits. It is essential for companies to establish an international expat policy to stay competitive, maintain geographical consistency and control costs, said Robert Lockley, principal in Mercer's international business. "Even against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, there is still competition for the best talent. Companies that are lax in this area will lose out."
As for respondents who have a successful expatriate benefits scheme, 63% ranked supporting the company's business and HR strategies as success factors, followed by being valued by employees and cost effectiveness, both at 59%. Yet 64% of companies have no specific procedures in place to measure the success of their expatriate benefit programmes. Lockley said the lack of evaluation measures will cause many organisations to "miss the opportunity to improve their benefit offering and sharpen their competitive edge".
More companies are also choosing to offer international retirement plans for their expats, instead of keeping them in a host or home country retirement scheme, as shown from 23% in 2005 to 32% this year. Lockley said this is often the most attractive option as it helps companies prevent compliance and regulatory problems.