Despite the sluggish global economy, 62 percent of international companies globally predict an increase in the number of staff they send on long-term assignments in other markets, according to ECA International.
ECA's latest 'Managing Mobility' survey also revealed that China remains by far the most common choice of market for companies from other Asian countries to post staff.
Just over half of the Asian companies surveyed listed China among their top three most common destinations for international assignments, putting it far ahead of the next most common destination, Singapore (26%).
Similarly, Hong Kong, while far behind China, was also among the most common destinations for overseas postings from other Asian markets, with 18 per cent of companies reporting that they posted staff there.
While these findings are more or less in line with previous years' findings, this year's survey also revealed another trend: that of Asian companies posting staff into western markets.
Among the Asian companies surveyed, 21 percent reported posting staff to the USA, and 17.6 percent sending staff to the UK.
"To many, the term 'expatriate' automatically conjures up images of highly-paid westerners being sent to faraway places to live lives of relative comfort," said Lee Quane, ECA International's regional director, Asia. "This study illustrates that that impression is outdated, and that increasingly, the reverse is true – companies from markets that were traditionally destinations for overseas postings are often now the home market for employees whose companies are sending them to places like the US.”
The reasons that Asian companies send employees on international assignments are broadly the same as employers in other regions, with the need to manage overseas operations given as the most common reason.
However, while 45 percent of companies globally cited this as their primary reason, among the Asian-headquartered companies, this figure was higher, at 59 percent.
For these organisations, whose international operations are typically newer and less well-established, the need to set up and manage new operations is likely to assume even greater importance than some of the other business reasons behind international assignments, such as career development or filling skills gaps.
Paying attention to career possibilities post-assignment is recognised as being an important part of the assignment cycle by three quarters of HR practitioners surveyed, particularly in terms of attracting employees to accept an assignment and retaining them afterwards.
Despite this, the study reveals that globally only 35 percent of companies offer returning assignees a guarantee of continued full-time employment in the home country for a specified period of time. In reality, the fast changing business needs many companies encounter today can make it difficult to plan beyond the assignment.
However, among Asian employers this figure is higher: 57 percent offer a guaranteed job on return.
"The demand for skilled, talented staff with international experience is particularly fierce in the fast- growing economies in which Asian companies operate," says Quane.
Quane explains that once an employee returns from their assignment, the international experience and skills they will have gained will make them a highly valued asset and other companies may be keen to poach them. "It is not surprising, therefore, that companies in Asia are more likely to consider guaranteeing a job post-assignment in order to capitalise on the employee's valuable experience and harness it to help develop the organisation’s overseas operations."
The survey also reveals the changing face of Asian assignees. Among Asian companies, an average of 11 percent of the assignee workforce is female, only slightly less than the global average of 13 percent. This is in line with the steady increase recorded over the last few years.
The trend looks set to continue, with nearly a third of Asian companies predicting that the proportion of female assignees in their company would increase over the next three years.
Globally, an even higher proportion of companies (43.2%) predicted an increase in female assignees.