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AIRINC’s Mobility Outlook Survey (MOS) is survey designed to help participants understand current and future trends in global mobility. Published annually since 2009, the MOS tracks participants’ global mobility programs over time, highlighting the prevalent trends for each year.

This year’s survey respondents operate across a range of industries and economic sectors, with global mobility programs ranging from under 50 to over 1000 international assignees.  Thirty percent of the participating companies are headquartered in Europe.

The survey tracks companies’ top sending and receiving locations, and European and Asian locations dominate both lists this year. The United Kingdom is at #2 on both the sending and receiving lists for the third year in a row, while other top 10 European countries include France and Switzerland.  The Netherlands, Germany, and Italy are in the top 20 sending and receiving countries, while Belgium is among the top 20 sending locations.


The 2014 MOS focuses on how companies are addressing the challenge of growing mobility and developing talent in a cost-effective way.  Survey respondents report that their companies’ three most important global mobility program goals are meeting business needs, managing talent, and containing costs, but they also confirm that these goals are difficult to achieve in concert.

Companies are seeking to expand their mobility programs to fulfill diverse business needs.  The percentage of respondents with growing expatriate populations has increased each year, from 26% in 2010 to 49% in 2013. Conversely, companies with decreasing numbers of international assignees have fallen from 47% in 2010 to 17% in 2013.

Mobility expansion is occurring within a complicated economic environment.  Despite citing cost reduction as the primary factor influencing global mobility programs, firms are still expanding into new territories and developing countries. These challenging locations can potentially require significant spending on support for assignees, as well as on incentivizing employees to accept assignments in the first place.

Continued competition for talent also pressures organizations to connect international assignments more effectively with career development.  The MOS shows some industry-specific trends in the types of tradeoffs being made among the three goals of fulfilling business needs, containing costs, and managing talent.  For example, companies in the oil and gas industry still offer traditional, and often generous, packages in order to recruit and retain mobile employees in the face of strong competition for industry talent.  Conversely, the finance industry’s strongest driver is cost containment, so companies in that sector are more likely to use lower cost packages with less support for assignees.


Given the range of factors influencing international assignments, companies are increasing the number of policies they use to address the variety of assignment types more effectively, increasingly differentiating assignments by function rather than just by length.  Survey respondents reported an average of 3.4 policies in 2011; that average increased to 4.1 in 2013.  Financial Services companies have the highest average number of formal policies at 5.2, Non-Profits the lowest at 2.0.  An organization’s size also influences the number of formal policies it offers. The larger programs of 500-1000 and 1000+ assignees have an average of 5.3 and 4.8 policies respectively, while smaller programs have 2.9 policies for 100-250 assignees and 3.1 policies for <50 assignees.


Short Term policies and the Traditional Balance Sheet (home-based equalized pay) for Long Term policies continue as the most widely used types, with the Traditional Balance Sheet still the most common.  However, many companies are expanding their policy offerings to meet goals beyond “time-based” needs.  For example, there has been an increase in the use of Developmental/Graduate, Host Plus, and Globalist policies.

The overall conclusion of this year’s Mobility Outlook Survey is that today’s best in class mobility programs are tailored to meet the unique needs of the company, the business, and the employee.


AIRINC are sponsoring Symposium Events’ Expatriate Management and Global Mobility conference on the 8th July. Kay Hall the General Manager Europe & Head of Business Development EMEA for AIRINC will be presenting on the challenges posed by the changing landscape on global mobility and how to strategically align your mobility program.

For more information on AIRINC and to request a free download of the full Mobility Outlook Survey, please visit AIRINC at