Foreign Worker Employment: Emphasis of Foreign Assignments Switches to Corporate Goals, Study Finds

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By Rick Vollmar

June 1—Employers with expatriate employees have largely mastered the operational aspects of international assignments and are now focusing on better aligning these assignments with overall corporate strategy, a new study from mobility consultant AIRINC has found.

According to AIRINC's 2016 Mobility Outlook Survey, well over half (56 percent) of companies surveyed reported an increase in their foreign-assignment population in 2015, continuing a steady increase since the study was begun in 2012. (The number of companies reporting growth dropped slightly in 2016—to 52 percent—largely due to contraction of the assignment population in the oil and gas sector.)

The types of assignments showing the strongest growth are long-term one-way transfers and locally hired nonnationals, which tend to be simpler to administer and less costly than limited-term assignments. AIRINC also found that although host-based compensation policies are growing in popularity, home-based balance-sheet approaches still account for the majority (77 percent) of plans.

While the principal criteria currently applied to expatriate assignments are operational excellence and providing assignees with overseas experience, employers say that going forward they will place greater emphasis on aligning assignments with the organization's overall strategic goals and assuring the best match between assignment and assignee.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

AIRINC's 2016 Mobility Outlook Survey is now included in the Perspectives section of our product.