The JGM BitBlog: Exploring the Evolution of Expatriation Research

Journal of Global Mobility

Maranda Ridgway: Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Hélène Langinier: University of Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France

In an era marked by globalisation and rapid technological advancements, we’ve witnessed a substantial increase in the number of expatriates – i.e., those who choose to live and work abroad. This shift has sparked a growing interest in global mobility and expatriation as organisations grapple with the challenges and opportunities of operating across national borders. To gain a comprehensive understanding of how research in the field of expatriation has evolved, we undertook a replication study of a previous systematic literature review. 
We identified key trends and emerging research directions by analysing the performance of 1,517 academic articles published between 2013-2022 and conducting a narrative review of the most cited papers from top-tier journals. One revelation was the exponential growth of the expatriation research field compared to the previous review period (1970-2012). This growth indicates the heightened importance of understanding the complexities of global mobility and the need to explore expatriation further to navigate this ever-evolving landscape.
Four themes emerged from the narrative analysis. Firstly, the strategic aspects of expatriation highlight multinational corporations (MNCs) need to prioritise and invest in global talent management because talent scarcity can be a formidable barrier to strategic change. Researchers have focused on understanding the different forms of global mobility, including short-term assignees, flexpatriates, and international business travellers, as different approaches to strategic global staffing. 
Secondly, the global mobility expatriation landscape is evolving; researchers have explored the experiences of different groups of expatriates, for example, women expatriates, highly skilled migrants, low-status expatriates, diplomats, self-initiated academics, and more. Additionally, there is a recognised need to study the impact on expatriates' partner’s and children’s well-being. The experiences of Host Country Nationals (HCNs) have also come under the spotlight as vital stakeholders influenced by the presence of expatriates. 
Thirdly, the dynamics between expatriates and HCNs, considering stakeholders affected by expatriation, with particular attention to HCNs. Researchers have moved beyond viewing HCNs as mere social agents providing support to expatriates. Instead, the focus has shifted towards understanding the potential transformational role of expatriates on HCNs. This perspective advocates their impact on subsidiary dynamics and team-level and individual creativity. 
Finally, a broader view of the expatriate experience by transcending a US-centric perspective and encompassing diverse geographical and organisational contexts. Researchers have recognised the need to contextualise the expatriate journey within the unique macro and meso environments, including acknowledging the impact of global crises, geographical locations, and power imbalances.
The expatriation research is shown to be diverse but fragmented. While previous studies may have honed in on specific aspects, such as cross-cultural adjustment or career development, there is a recognition that many factors contribute to an individual's experience living and working abroad. Recognising this complexity allows for a more holistic grasp of expatriation experiences. Thus, we argue there is a need to view expatriation as a multifaceted experience across macro, meso, and micro levels, recognising the importance of continuing contextualisation, understanding inequalities, and intercultural competencies. Moreover, we advocate for more interdisciplinarity in expatriation research to understand how expatriation fits within the larger organisational framework.

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:
Ridgway, M. and Langinier, H. (2023), "The evolving field of global mobility: responses to global volatility (2013–2022)", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 300-328.