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RISMEDIA, May 14, 2008-Despite a slowing economy, an overwhelming majority of multinational corporations remain highly optimistic about the global outlook for their businesses and say they plan to send more employees on overseas assignments in the months ahead, according to the new Global Relocation Trends Survey, published annually by GMAC Global Relocation Services.

The worldwide survey of 154 multinational firms found that 68% of corporations are ramping up their employee assignment efforts. Of those, 95% say they plan to either increase the number of employees being transferred or stay at the same level as last year. A mere 5% expect to decrease the number of employees relocating in 2008. The firms that participated in the latest survey manage a total worldwide employee population of 4.3 million.

According to GMAC Global Relocation Services, the optimism is impressive in light of a looming recession in the United States. Helping offset this, are booming markets in China and steady expansion of the European Union, which has created a vast and relatively open marketplace for trade encompassing some 500 million people.

Still, corporations are not immune from global economic challenges. Despite this projected growth, the majority of companies (58%) indicated they are cutting back on expenses for international assignments in response to economic conditions. At companies that are reducing expenses, 29% of respondents – the highest since the survey began tracking this subject — indicated they are reducing policy offerings and financial incentives for relocating employees.

“The Global Relocation Trends Survey continues to present the newest data and research while providing companies throughout the world with valuable insight into current and emerging global mobility trends,” said Rick Schwartz, president and CEO of GMAC Global Relocation Services. “The survey identified three significant challenges facing corporations: finding suitable candidates for assignments, helping employees-and their families-complete their assignments, and retaining these employees once their assignments end,” Schwartz said.

Now in its 13th year, the annual Global Relocation Trends Survey has become 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 international workforce.

Family Concerns

Family concerns were cited as the most common reason for assignment refusal (89%), followed by spouse career concerns (62%). Family-related issues play a key role throughout the duration of international assignments; 28% of respondents cited family concerns as the top reason for early returns from assignments.

“Not surprisingly, children’s education, family adjustment, partner resistance and difficult locations were identified as the top four critical family challenges in this year’s survey,” Schwartz said. “That’s underscored by the fact that 61% of respondents noted that the impact of family issues on early returns from assignment was very critical or of high importance.”

He added that it is becoming increasingly clear to corporations that “when candidates are selected for expatriate assignments, spouses, partners and entire families also need to be ‘selected.’ Managers of international assignment programs can’t approach an assignment as just another task. Instead, they must appreciate that they’re managing an expatriate’s future career, and that they face the possibility of early return and a possible doubling of the chances for employee attrition.”

Indeed, the annual turnover rate for all employees is 13%, compared to 25% for expatriate employees during assignments, and 27% within one year of completing assignments. Two key factors appear to be at play in this higher turnover rate, Schwartz said:

A feeling among expatriates that the inconveniences caused by their assignments are not adequately appreciated by their companies

Lack of opportunities to parlay the experiences and skills they gain from the assignment into better positions within their companies.

This year’s survey also found:

The Expatriate Population: Fewer men, Fewer children
19% of expatriates were women; the historical average was 15%
50% of expatriates were 20 to 39 years old
60% of expatriates were married, less than the historical average of 66%. The percentage of married men (51percent) was the lowest in the report’s history
51% of expatriates had children accompanying them (a match for the previous all-time low in the 2003/4 report); the historical average was 57%
Spouses/partners accompanied 83% of expatriates; the historical average was 85%
54% of spouses were employed before an assignment (but not during), and 12% were employed during an assignment (but not before). Twenty percent were employed both before and during the assignment

Expatriate Sources and Destinations

56% of expatriates were relocated to or from the headquarters country, which was below the historical average of 65%
The United States, China and United Kingdom were the most frequently cited locations for expatriate assignments
China, India and Russia were the primary emerging destinations-and also cited by survey participants as the most challenging locations for expatriates
China, India and Russia also were cited as the most challenging locations for administrators overseeing employee relocations

The company will be presenting key findings of the 2008 Global Relocation Trends Survey on May 29 – 30 during a complimentary webinar designed to provide a comparative analysis of the key global mobility issues facing today’s business world.

The interactive webinar presentation, open to the first 100 registrants, is available in the following regions:

The Americas: Thursday, May 29th at 9 am (CDT)
Europe, Middle East & Africa: Thursday, May 29th at 3 pm (BST)
Asia Pacific: Friday, May 30th at 10 am (SGT)