Expat workers move abroad to improve their career, research shows

by Ray Clancy on October 19, 2011

Increase in temporary global workers

Three in four expat global workers work abroad in order to make a career jump which is seen as the main reason for taking a job overseas, new research reveals.

But while 84% take an overseas job to improve their career, 83% also say it is for the diversity of experiences that they will encounter and 79% say it is to experience different cultures.

An increasing numbers of British workers are being posted globally on temporary assignments while maintaining a UK base, the fourth annual NatWest International Personal Banking (IPB) Quality of Life Index also shows.

Around three quarters of a million British workers currently travel overseas to work abroad each year. The ratio of temporary to permanent workers is currently five to one however, it looks set to rise to ten to one by 2020.

The increased use of temporary global workers means that the traditional definition of expatriation is blurring as Britain engages in a global market of brain exchange, says the report.

Countries are progressively sharing their talent rather than keeping hold of it, a phenomenon fuelled by global expat commuters.

‘The growth of the global worker has brought with it an opportunity to share knowledge and experience around the world. The great brain exchange is a fantastic concept of other economies temporarily sharing the strengths of British workers,’ said Dave Isley, head of NatWest International Personal Banking.

‘Due to advances in travel and telecommunications, it is now much easier for international operations to run via daily phone calls, e-mail, and video conferencing. It has opened the door to sending young, talented, professionals abroad, while being supervised and coached by their managers in the UK,’ he added.

The research says there is a new group it calls GenXYpats with Generations X born between 1964 and 1981 and Y born between 1982 and 1992 who choose to live and pursue careers on foreign shores. They are a new niche demographic and psychographic spanning the life stages, generations of knowledge nomads, seeking temporary work overseas.

Expats view working overseas as a positive experience with 52% rating their overall quality of working life as either excellent or very good. English speaking countries are most popular amongst professional expats with Australia, Canada and the USA emerging top of the list. The GenXYpats are drawn to global working, with 48% choosing to take up temporary posts overseas compared to 28% aged over 50.

Expatriate workforces are also becoming more cosmopolitan with more than 50% of companies now employing more than one nationality. Women make up 22% of the expatriate workforce, up from 6% 15 years ago. In terms of the time spent overseas, the average time spent working out of the country on various assignments is 5.4 years.

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