China Problematic For Expat Workers
With the growing importance of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries, a significant number of multinational companies are sending workers out to China to manage their operations. The world economy crisis in 2008 has put a major focus on China, with companies striving to fully invest in the opportunities available – the same enthusiasm isn’t shared with those sent there. Due to a number of factors including cultural issues and healthcare concerns, only a third of those posted to China are actually carrying out the full term of their overseas assignments.
Give an employee the opportunity to a foreign posting based in countries like Australia, France and the USA and they will more than likely jump at the chance, change the location to Brazil, Russia, India or China and chances are you will receive a less than enthusiastic reply. According to the annual Expat Explorer survey, expats from the Western world put China near the bottom of the list of rated destinations, appearing 27th out of the 31 different countries.
Those with families pose the biggest problems when considering the move, with fears regarding health care standards, cultural differences and missing friends and families the biggest barriers to overcome. The problem is that these barriers are real concerns when moving to China resulting in so many assignments falling through, even though work projects in China are often for a shorter time period than the majority of other places. This is why it is very important for a business to select the right employee for the project, as the cost of a three year assignment can cost up to £1 million when you consider transportation, housing, schooling, insurance, and hardship payments.
The employee will find the whole process the easiest as they have a job they can slot into easily and they will understand the company. For the family, the move may prove more difficult as the partner may be unable to work and the children will have to experience an international school. It is for these reasons that an organisation should assess the fit of such an assignment for the whole family and not just the employee; the family needs to cope with the strange new environment just as well as the employee or they could face difficulties as a whole.
Social media and easy ways to communicate with family and friends back home are playing a very important role in helping people adjust to new environments, and can be easily set up by employers to help make the transition smoother. Another major concern for people moving is the quality of available healthcare should something happen. The available Chinese health system, although accessible, is something that is very rarely used by expatriates living in the country. Private hospitals are often the norm for expats seeking medical attention in the country.
Unfortunately this means that insurance premiums are higher for employers sending workers to China. It’s for these reasons that it becomes even more important to make sure you are getting the most from your investment, picking not just the right employee for the job, but the right family as well.