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Brookfield’s 2011 Global Relocation Trends Survey

Jun 4, 2011

Posted by

Frank Cook

Frank Cook is publisher of ALQ/Real Estate Intelligence Report a residential real estate newsletter focusing on the cutting edge of the industry and author of "21 Things I Wish My Broker Had Told Me Read more

In this highly anticipated April, 2011 work, Global Relocation Trends Survey, published by Brookfield Global Relocation Services, it is reported that 60 percent of spouses/partners were employed before new assignments but just 12 percent afterwards.   China, Brazil and India are top emerging destinations;  China, India and Russia are cited as the most challenging destinations for both “expats” and relocation managers.

As the global economy continues to improve, so, too, do the expectations of global companies, with 61 percent expecting to transfer more employees in 2011 than in recent years, according to this just-released 16th annual survey.  It found that 58 percent of company revenues were generated outside companies’ headquarters country for the second straight year, the highest ever recorded by the survey.  Of significance, 57 percent of international assignees were relocated to or from the headquarters country, the second-lowest percentage in the history of the report.

However, the location of a company’s headquarters is a significant factor in that company’s optimism:  Those headquartered in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA) were more optimistic than their counterparts with headquarters in North America.  For example, 64 percent of EMEA-based companies expected to send more employees on assignment this year, versus 58 percent of companies based in North America.

 Optimism Prevails

“As more companies are increasing their presence in emerging markets, international assignments are a key aspect in the global economic recovery and we’re seeing a higher percentage of companies displaying optimism when it comes to increasing their international assignment population,” said Rick Schwartz, president of Brookfield Global Relocation Services.  “Each year, the Global Relocation Trends Survey uncovers the top trends impacting corporations and their global mobility programs.  Our 16 years of award-winning research allows us to compare, contrast and provide a baseline that’s unique to the industry.”

In all, 118 multinational firms participated in the worldwide survey; combined, these firms manage a worldwide employee population of 5.6 million.  Brookfield Global Relocation Services presented key findings of its 2011 survey on April 21, during a complimentary webinar that provided a comparative analysis of the key global mobility issues facing businesses today.

Since its inception, the annual Global Relocation Trends Survey has been regarded as the definitive study of companies’ employee-relocation practices, policies and projections.  As it does each year, the newly released survey paints a comprehensive picture of evolving trends and emerging issues facing companies of all sizes that rely on an internationally mobile workforce. 

Scott T. Sullivan, executive vice president of Brookfield Global Relocation Services said, “While companies are increasingly selecting more experienced transferees, they are faced with the ongoing challenge of connecting the value of international assignments to the bottom line.”

So Who Are Today’s Transferees?

A number of transferee-specific trends were uncovered by this year’s survey, including:

•  12 percent of all employees had previous international assignee experience and just 8 percent of current international assignees were new hires (the lowest percentage in the history of this report for the second straight year).

•  18 percent of international assignees were women, compared to an historical average of 16 percent.

•  19 percent of transferees were 50 to 59 years old (the second-highest age bracket in the history of the report).

•  68 percent of international assignees were married and less than half (47 percent) had children accompanying them, an all-time low.

China is Where They Are Headed . . . and it Tops the List of Trouble Spots

Survey respondents weighed in on where they’re sending transferees and which countries are proving the most challenging from a cultural/lifestyle perspective for them:

•  When asked to identify the countries that were emerging as new assignment locations, China ranked as the most common new destination, followed by Brazil, India and Singapore.

•  In terms of assignment difficulties for international assignees, China ranked highest followed by India, Russia, and Brazil.  This is a reflection of the assignee volume going into these locations.  The competition for housing and schooling and other strains on infrastructure will undoubtedly create delays and difficulty to the relocation process and have a negative impact on the relocation experience.

Other Key Trends

This year’s survey also shed light on other key relocation trends, from companies’ preparation of employees for assignments, to the percentage of transferees who head out with the kids in tow.  Among those key trends:

•  Companies reported that the percentage of new hires for international assignments was just 8 percent, an all-time low.  Meanwhile, only 9 percent of international assignees are 20 to 29 years old (tied for the lowest percentage in the history of this report).

•  Only 47 percent of assignees had children accompanying them -- the same all-time low as in the 2010 survey.

•  Just 74 percent of companies provided cross-cultural preparation -- the lowest percentage in the history of this report.  While this benefit may be an easy one to cut to reduce costs, it is difficult to ensure the quality of web-based or self-service cross-cultural preparation that is usually offered as an alternative.

In response to economic conditions, 75 percent of companies reduced assignment expenses, with the cost of a relocation serving as the most common management challenge.

•  86 percent of companies prepared cost estimates before initiating international assignments.  Unfortunately, only 25 percent compared estimates with actual costs -- the lowest percentage in the history of this report.  

•  As a consequence, although companies are increasingly focusing on cost reductions and efficiencies in their international relocation operations, amazingly, 92 percent of companies did not formally measure return on investment (ROI).  When asked why, 50 percent of respondents indicated that the principal reason for not measuring ROI is that they do not know how to achieve it.

About the Report

The 2011 Global Relocation Trends Survey Report is the 16th report issued by Brookfield Global Relocation Services.  Released annually, the reports are considered among the most reliable and respected sources of global mobility data and trends information.  The longevity of this survey enables the company to compare each year’s results with historical averages, which help gauge the relative importance of annual variations.  For additional information and to receive the 2011 Global Relocation Trends Survey, register for the company’s complimentary 2011 key findings webinar at:

About Brookfield Global Relocation Services

A full service provider of relocation and assignment services to more than 250 corporate and government clients.  Brookfield Global Relocation Services manages over 50,000 relocations in more than 110 countries throughout the world, and funds over $3.6 billion in relocation expenses annually.  Brookfield Global Relocation Services is an operating company of Brookfield Residential Property Services, a leading global provider of real estate and relocation services, technology, and knowledge.