Benefits and Compensation, Recruiting

Glamour of Overseas Opportunities Overshadowed by Concerns

Globally mobile individuals are not as enamored of working abroad as recruiters, hiring managers, and other members of the management team may think. Although the upsides of an overseas assignment help balance the downsides, the negatives cause very real concerns.

Source: Michele Piacquadio / Hermera / Getty


A new survey, from global health insurance service company Cigna, looks at the overall well-being of globally mobile individuals and finds people working overseas generally perceive themselves as worse off when it comes to their physical, social, family, and even financial well-being compared to individuals who reside in their home country and have not taken overseas assignments.

Survey Details

The survey looks at five underlying trends that affect the health, well-being, and sense of security of people around the world: physical, financial, social, family, and work health. A total of 2,003 online interviews were conducted with globally mobile individuals ages 25 to 59 who are working in markets outside of their birthplace across 20 markets in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and the United States.
These findings were compared to a Cigna survey of the general working population conducted earlier this year.
Overall, the well-being index score for globally mobile individuals is 61.5 points, which is 1.8 points lower than their domestic counterparts. The most significant gap is in family well-being, which is 9.4 points lower.
“The results show that globally mobile individuals are more concerned than the general working population about their own health and well-being, and that of their families,” said Jason Sadler, president, Cigna International Markets, when releasing survey findings. “Without exception, this group is worried about the consequences of personal or family member illness; an issue compounded by a gap in health benefits provided by their employers.”

The Lure of Global Mobility

International exposure is a significant draw to working overseas, Cigna finds.
Globally mobile individuals highlight the opportunity to accumulate wealth, better career prospects, good working hours, and positive relationships with coworkers as bright aspects of their experience.

Challenges of Global Mobility

Nevertheless, even though employees have the opportunity to accumulate wealth while working overseas, only one-third of respondents consider their current financial situation satisfactory.
Lack of time spent with their family and their children’s education are other concerns. These issues are exacerbated by not having a family support network around them.
Globally mobile individuals often experience anxiety, and all respondents are concerned about illness. Cancer and accidents are their main worries, followed by mental illness, such as depression. Twenty-five percent of globally mobile individuals raise concerns about diseases associated with alcohol, significantly more than the general working population.
A significant gap in health insurance coverage may contribute to elevated levels of concern.
“The survey shows health benefits are a very important factor when deciding to take an overseas posting,” said Sadler. “Despite this, there is a significant gap. A surprising 40 percent of respondents do not have any medical benefits offered by their company, and 15 percent have no health coverage at all.
“There is a clear need for employers to pay attention to the health and well-being of their globally mobile employees. This duty of care should extend outside of the office when employers are interacting with their families and the local community.”
In addition, there are safety concerns. Globally mobile individuals feel the world looks less secure due to political turmoil and other macro-economic factors. One-third of respondents feel less safe than they did 24 months ago. This sense of insecurity is highest in the United States, with 42 percent of respondents feeling less safe, and in Africa, where 31 percent have an issue with their safety.
Many respondents also report having problems socializing outside of work. One-fifth cite loneliness, which increases to nearly one-quarter for those who are single or live alone.