Expats keen to move but healthcare cover concerns are increasing

As the impact of the COVID pandemic begins to lessen across the world, companies are already planning for a growth in the numbers of workers that either request or are asked to work internationally.

However, COVID has increased the concerns of some workers—and their employers—who are considering a move to a new country. In the face of fundamental differences in health provision and services across the world the situation has pushed the need for robust and comprehensive IPMI to the top of the agenda for employer and employee alike.

For an employer, the ability to move existing staff to international offices, whether to open a new operation or adding to an existing one, delivers a number of benefits.

It avoids the costs that come with rehiring and training, and the employer knows the worker has the skills and experience to seamlessly move into the new role.

It fosters continuity of service and delivers established inside knowledge and relationships in a new location.

For expats, the reason to move to a new country is often to further a career as borders and economies reopen. According to the Expat Insider 2021 survey by InterNations, 47% of working expats name their career as the most important reason for relocating to another country. Most of them found a job on their own (17%), were recruited internationally (15%), or were sent by their employer (13%). Just 2% moved abroad to start their own business.

However, while the willingness to move remains, employees have a new vision of what they want from the expat lifestyle.

While the satisfaction with working hours and work-life balance has slightly increased since 2015, expats are less happy with their local career opportunities: less than half the working expats (49%) were satisfied with this factor in 2021, compared to 60% in 2015. On the other hand, expats rate their job security better now, with 67% saying they are happy with this factor (vs. 60% in 2015). Overall, 73% are happy with their job in general, which is 5 percentage points more than in 2015 (68%).

Close to three in five working expats (58%) say that factors like autonomy, freedom, creativity, personal development, and self-fulfilment are important in the business culture of their host country. These values are closely related to the concept of New Work, which describes the new way of working in the global and digital age.

Currently four in five (78%) say they are able to work remotely in 2021. However, while 62% say that they can work remotely, 16% add that they can work remotely but usually prefer not to. Another 16% are unable to work remotely due to the nature of their job, and only 6% cannot work remotely because their employer does not allow it. Overall, 65% enjoy working remotely: more than a quarter (28%) even like it very much, while just 3% do not like it at all.

Close to two in five working expats (39%) work fully remotely, while the second-biggest share (18%) works remotely for more than 15 days per month. This figure is followed by two to five days (14%), one day or less (12%), and six to ten days (10%).

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on the remote work policies for expat employees: nearly three in ten (28%) are now able to work remotely more often than before, while another 20% say that remote work has been newly introduced and is here to stay for them. For around one quarter (26%) their employer’s remote work policies have not changed in the long run, while another 26% do not know yet what their employer will decide in the post-pandemic future.

While the way in which expats are working and envisage the future have changed so have their concerns when considering a move.

One of the biggest are the benefits that come with the new role with healthcare top of the list. The pandemic has increased the awareness of not only the need for access to quality healthcare but also the potential shortcomings of national healthcare systems. There are also moves by many nations to ensure that expats are in possession of IPMI cover to ensure they can fund any treatment required. The pandemic has also seen expats looking for support from their employers not only in the provision of their IPMI but also health insurance for their family members who have made the move with them.

It has seen benefits becoming ever more important to the success for companies planning employee relocation. In the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) State of Employee Benefits Survey it was found insurance benefits have become more than just attractive perks; they also help employees to meet their essential needs. In the EBRI’s Workplace Wellness Survey 70% of respondents felt employees need help from their employer to stay healthy and financially secure.

The pressure on employers to ensure that the health of their international staff and their families are fully covered is growing and with it the need for firms to have quick and comprehensive access to a range of IPMI products to ensure that existing staff can be at their heart of their international expansion plans.