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The sails of the Sydney Opera House are lit during the Vivid Sydney Festival in Sydney May 27, 2010.

TIM WIMBORNE/REUTERS

International corporate transfers froze during the recession, but that trend is now thawing.

Canadian companies are assigning employees around the globe in growing numbers, according to a Canadian Employee Relocation Council poll released yesterday. The top five destinations for moves are the United States, the European Union, China, Australia and South America.

The recession dramatically slowed the number of relocations as companies hunkered down and cut costs. But more companies seem willing to pay to transfer their staff to foreign locations as the economy recovers and companies feel more pressure to go global.

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Overall, employers have a brighter outlook than in 2009. A quarter of respondents said they expect relocation volumes in Canada to grow over the next year, a fifth expect activity between Canada and the U.S. to increase and 40 per cent expect international moves to increase over the next year.

The typical profile for a transferee is a married professional, aged between 26 and 40, who earns about $95,000, said the council's chief executive Stephen Cryne. "It's very likely that the spouse is also a professional with similar income and so decisions to move are made as a family unit."

The survey of 100 employers, conducted every two years, also asked about relocations within Canada. It found employees are "far more likely" to move to Western Canada than other areas of the country. Those numbers are expected to grow as employment activity picks up in the oil patch, Mr. Cryne said.

The average cost to move an employee within Canada is in the $57,000 range "although some organizations shell out twice that much," he said. International transfers typically cost about $100,000.

While 87 per cent of companies report tracking their relocation costs, only 19 per cent have a process in place to determine the success or failure of moves, the survey found.

Spousal and family issues are the most likely reason why an employee will reject a transfer, the survey found. That's significant because the majority of those chosen for international assignments have a spouse who also works, and two-thirds of them are homeowners.

Other factors affecting the success of moves are finding equivalent housing an managing tax implications.

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Home disposal assistance is provided by only 48 per cent of employers and just 15 per cent will allow the employee to purchase a home in the host country if not on a permanent reassignment.

"As the global race for talent heats up again, the strategic importance of talent mobility will increase," Mr. Cryne said. "Companies will need to have competitive benefits in place in order to attract and retain their key people."

With files from Wallace Immen

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