expat assignments, global mobility, willingness to move abroad, moving abroad

Why less families decide to move abroad

Are families less willed to move abroad in this world of uncertainty? How will expat assignments change within the next year? How to make the decision of moving abroad or working from home in another country? This article is shedding some light on the future of global mobility in the world we are living in right now.

Fewer families are willed to move abroad for work

A recent survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group confirms a feeling that many within the global mobility industry already had: While the actual number of expats has not decreased significantly, the willingness to move abroad in the near future has dropped by 13%. This will become visible for international companies in the upcoming years. Only every other employee with a global career DNA is ok moving his or her family abroad to another assignment in the current situation. That is a pretty steep drop by 13% in a world that is so globalized. It seems as though employees are now focusing more on a healthy work-family balance rather than a world-life balance. 

"When we conducted our first survey about people’s willingness to move to another country for work, in 2014, almost two-thirds of global respondents said the idea appealed to them. The proportion has declined by 13 percentage points since then and is now about 50%, a drop rooted in both nationalistic immigration policies and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic."

BCG Report on Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual (2021)

Why fewer families are willed to move abroad

The reason behind is not only COVID as one might think. It is also related to restrictive immigration policies in many countries and social unrest. The study by BCG was conducted before the Ukrainian war which has definitely triggered the question of safety in certain parts of the world. A war within Europe definitely changed the view on safe places to move to. The speed and scale at which events occur around the world that have not only a local but a global effect creates increased uncertainty. Families considering an assignment in China fear spending their time abroad in lockdown. Families considering moving to Australia hear of years of isolation on the continent. America is no longer the most popular expat destination for the first time in a long time. The management of COVID has been closely watched by the expat community. As a consequence, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan have been considered safer destinations for assignments than the US or Germany. So different global events are shaking up the list of top destinations and have most certainly triggered more intense talk about being safe as a family at the kitchen table.

"By contrast, for countries that have managed the coronavirus effectively, there has been a popularity boost. That is true of several Asia-Pacific countries, including Japan, which jumped four places, and Singapore and New Zealand, which weren’t on the list in 2018 but are now. Strong coronavirus management has also helped Canada, which has moved ahead of the US to become the number-one work destination globally."

BCG Report on Decoding Global Talent, Onsite and Virtual (2021)

Should we move our family in a BANI world?

The recent events support the assumption that we are living in a world of constant change. We as humans long to describe the current state of things and we actually started to create frameworks for that.


The so-called VUCA concept was, for a long time. a guiding framework for organizations and individuals alike. However, while VUCA described the volatility it did not seem to be enough in a time with a worldwide pandemic so we are now talking about living in a BANI world. You can read all about the differences between these two frameworks in this blog post. 


BANI is an acronym for Brittle (B), Anxious (A), Nonlinear (N), and Incomprehensible (I) and aims to describe the challenges of today’s world. 

Questions to ask yourself when discussing potential international assignments

I mention the BANI framework as it helps us describe this world of uncertainty we live in. And being able to put something into words is the first step in defining your own role you want to play in this world.

While BANI paints a picture of a brittle (B), anxious (A), nonlinear (N), and incomprehensible (I) you as a family can come up with coping mechanisms for each of these attributions:

When something is brittle we can define what is set in stone. What core family values will be transferrable to our life abroad?

When we are feeling anxious, what made us think about this idea of moving abroad in the first place? Was it really just the career opportunity or is there a voice your head screaming excitement? And what role can empathy and mindfulness play in this scenario?

When we are facing a non-linear world in which assignents can lead to an early return or an unplanned extension, what let us believe that our life in our home country will be linear? And what value is there in becoming more adaptive?

When we feel that the world is incomprehensible and we can never control the full picture, what are the parts that we can control? And what role does our intuition play?

As we all know: The only certainty we have in life is that there is no such thing as certainty. Experienced expats write books about how unexpected life events shaped their family DNA. Only a few experts have thought about the Ukrainian war or the consequences of a worldwide pandemic. There is only that much that we can control, foresee and influence. We can’t control what life looks like in all detail a year from now but we can manage our attitude and part in the game. 

I invite you to include this thought and the questions above in the decision-making process with your family. You can also go here for a more detailed article on the decision-making process of moving abroad or not and always reach out via info@sharethelove.blog. Thanks for reading and sharing the love!

I hope you found this blog post helpful for your current situation. Let me know if I can be of any help! I offer the opportunity for free 1:1 discovery calls to discuss your situation and I also offer free monthly global coffee dates where women from all around the world meet to discuss their global lifestyle decisions. You can safe your spot here.

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

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Ebook for the accompanying partner

Quitting your job and joining your partner abroad does not need to end your professional career. Learn what options you have and how to define what you really want during your time abroad. Make it to your own personal journey and get the most out of it!


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