2021 predictions for global mobility and employee salaries.

Based on the observations from 2020, Lee Quane, Regional Director Asia at ECA International, listed her predictions in light of all businesses reassessing their priorities, cost-cutting measures according to what is deemed truly essential for business viability.

Virtual international assignments will continue to be a commonplace in the absence of employee mobility

The model is considered appealing and cost-effective at the practice allowing employees to perform roles for a company as border restrictions will remain in place.

However, Human Resource (HR) must be prepared to implement a concrete and competitive policy amid an uncertain environment in 2021, alongside understanding potential costs (e.g. tax liability in two locations) and compliance issues.

Junior and even middle-level employees may no longer be needed in their host countries

It is likely that repatriated individuals who perform these roles were amongst the first to return via ‘green lane’ travel arrangements, which have come into effect in recent months, and will continue to be needed in their host locations.

For instance, companies operating in multiple locations within a region (such as a Singaporean company with operations in other ASEAN countries), this means employees may remain at headquarters, whereas companies that operate globally may send their employees to regional hubs instead of in-market locations.

Oversight of the safety of corporate travel will increase greatly

While the travel industry may gradually recover in 2021 as Covid-19 vaccines are promised to be readily available within the next few months, significant oversight is needed from HR teams to ensure that overseas assignees are certified to travel.

HR teams will need to carefully select a list of trusted partners such as airlines and hotels for business travelers and review the applicability and efficacy of crisis response policies. They will also need to compile valuable advice for employees whilst present in host locations, such as whether masks are required when out in public.

Housing costs will continue to fall as employee mobility declines

As employee mobility is predicted to remain subdued in 2021, housing rental costs for expatriates will likely to continue to fall in the coming months.

Rates for other types of accommodation, such as short-term serviced accommodation and hotel accommodation, are likely to remain subdued as well in 2021 due to lower levels of demand.

Rate of salary increases will rebound in 2021

Reports from ECA International’s recent Salary Trends survey, most business respondents are confident about the economic recovery in 2021 and are expecting to pay salary increases for their employees.

This can be attributed to the fact that the number of companies implementing pay freezes in 2021 is expected to drop.

However, as major economic recessions can cause significant long-term impact on salary growth rates, workers may not see the rates of annual salary grow to return to pre-Covid-19 levels despite the expected rebound next year.


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