Pandemic or not, Millennials and Gen Z Employees Still Want Expat Assignments: Metlife Survey


39% of Gen Z employees and 43% of millennials surveyed showed interest in pursuing expat assignments offered by their country despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic set in, companies immediately took measures to ensure global operations remained smooth. Some companies such as Google shared their approach for all employees, local and expatriate. But many struggled with concerns about their global mobile workforce located in other countries. Some even evaluated the option of repatriation and compared it against the risk of infection. The pandemic has led to a considerable change in business travel to other countries. Will it stop people from exploring international opportunities?

No. As per the recent MetlifeOpens a new window survey, employees are interested in taking up expatriate (expat) assignments even now. Almost 30% of responding employees showed interest in expat assignments, with the youngest generations of Gen Z (39%) and millennials (43%) leading the way.

MetLife’s 18th Annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trends StudyOpens a new window (EBTS), however, also found that 42% of Gen Z and 36% of millennials do not feel mentally healthy, and many of those already on expat assignments feel more stressed than their non-expat counterparts. Employers need to find more ways to support this segment of its employees. This is indicated by the fact that while 83% of employers that offer expat plans agree that they are responsible for the safety, health, and well-being of their employees, expat employees still feel that there is scope for improvement. Only 50% of the expats who participated in the survey shared that their employer provided them with benefits personalized to their needs in a new country.

The study has three phases. The first two were conducted in August and September 2019 (Wave 1) and the third in early April 2020, during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (Wave 2). The 2019 employer survey consists of 2,501 interviews and 904 decision-makers with responsibility for expatriate benefits at multinational companies. The 2019 employee survey includes 2,650 interviews with full-time employees aged 21 and over. The updated 2020 employee survey consists of 2,367 interviews using the same criteria.

A study by Willis Towers WatsonOpens a new window also shares the importance of having a holistic benefits program for expatriate employees during the pandemic.

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Which Benefits Can Expatriate Employees Expect in the “New Normal”?

Also, considering the findings of Metlife’s survey, are these benefits relevant to the younger workforce, which wants to make the shift or is already operating from host countries?

1. Addition of virtual healthcare provisions in expatriate healthcare plans

Access to telehealth and telemedicine as part of the healthcare plan for expatriates is important. This is not a common practice in many countries, so employers need to find the right insurance partners who can provide virtual healthcare in countries where they have their global workforce.

2. International EAPs

Severalemployers don’t have international employee assistance programs (EAP). These employers can choose a regional provider separately to cover their expatriate talent or move to an EAP that has a global reach.

3. Return to home and repatriation support

Companies can assist with repatriation for health reasons and include benefits such as travel reimbursement for family members and moving insurance. Specific support to those who are returning or even placed in “high-risk” countries is an additional benefit.

4. Access to relevant mobile apps

Apps such as the MSH International MobileOpens a new window App not only contain a country guide that covers details of the healthcare system in the host country but also has a complete medical library that shares information on several diseases and drugs available worldwide. The expatriate employee can also locate nearby healthcare professionals listed on MSH.

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While companies will incur high costs on expatriate assignments, as businesses shrink globally, they need to weigh it against the cost of losing their foothold in international markets owing to sudden repatriation. It might become tougher to redeploy more talent in those markets. It is a delicate situation that companies will need to manage depending on their presence and business they have in those countries.