Why Employees Are Less Inclined to Move Abroad

Aliah D. Wright By Aliah D. Wright June 7, 2017
Why Employees Are Less Inclined to Move Abroad

​Would your employees allow your company to relocate them to another country? What if you paid them more to do so?

For most employees worldwide, the answer is no.

The newly released 2017 Canadian Employee Relocation Council's (CERC's) Global Mobility Survey points out that just 18 percent of employees in 20 countries, including Canada say they would be "very likely" to take a full-time job in another country for up to two years with a 10 percent pay increase—a 7 percentage point decline from 2012.

The results indicate that HR may have to consider employee attitudes about living abroad, the socio-economic implications of doing so, and how workers expect their employers to accommodate them and their families if they move out of their country for work.

"It is becoming more challenging and complex for companies to motivate employees to move for work," CERC President and CEO Stephen Cryne stated in a news release.

"Balancing the needs of today's modern family—which is very likely comprised of dual income professionals, children and aging parents—[is] at times insurmountable."

Lynn Shotwell, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Council for Global Immigration (CFGI), which was a sponsor of the survey, echoed those statements.

"The results mostly align with what we hear from our members, but the interesting story is that on the whole, only one in five employees [is] very willing to temporarily relocate. Clearly, employees will move only for the right opportunity."

The global poll was sponsored by: BDO Global, an international network of public accounting, tax and advisory firms headquartered in Brussels; CFGI, a global network of employers dedicated to advancing employment-based immigration; Danbury, Conn.-based Crown World Mobility, which helps corporations manage global talent; Dwellworks LLC, a relocation support service based in Cleveland; the European Relocation Association (EuRA), an accreditation program for relocation providers based in the United Kingdom; Randstad Holding NV, a Dutch multinational HR consulting firm based in Diemen, Netherlands; TheMIGroup, a relocation management company in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Weichert Workforce Mobility, a division of the Weichert Family of Companies, focused on real estate, relocation and mortgage financing, which is based in Morris Plains, N.J.

CFGI is an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management.

CERC, a Toronto-based membership association for workforce mobility and employee relocation professionals, polled 10,096 employees in 24 countries for the survey.

Some 77 percent of respondents cited "friendliness to immigrants" as a major factor in the decision to move to another country for work.

"Growing levels of opposition to global trade and immigration in some regions are very likely influencing the decision making of employees who are considering moving for employment," Cryne said.


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According to the survey, "global employees were asked about their level of agreement with new statements in 2017 pertaining to immigration, healthcare, education, social security, taxation and the economy."

Global employees are most likely to agree that they would only relocate to a country that has a high-quality and accessible health care system (82 percent); is friendly to immigrants (77 percent); has a good social security system (77 percent); has a high-quality and accessible educational system (72 percent); has an innovative economy (70 percent); and has a low tax burden (64 percent).

Other findings:

  • 37 percent could be convinced to relocate—but only if the incentive package from their employer was acceptable.
  • 36 percent would consider relocation if their employer provided support for their spouse to get a job in the new country, too.
  • 40 percent agreed there is nothing their employer could do to convince them to take an international assignment.

    Employees do have a preference when it comes to where they'd like to relocate.

    The most preferred destinations are:
  • The U.S.—30 percent.
  • Canada—22 percent.
  • The U.K.—19 percent.
  • Australia—19 percent.
  • Germany—17 percent.


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