There are increasing numbers of internationally mobile people in the world of which we have little understanding. These 'global workers' are typically thought of as 'business expatriates' - an elite, corporately assigned population representing a very small segment of the international labour force. But mobility for work in today’s employment landscape is not only for the rich, affluent and highly skilled.

The world is changing. Employers are becoming more aware of the many millions of people who are part of the international labour market but do not fit the standard description of ‘high-status expatriates’ or even ‘expatriates’.

Global workers may be people who have self-initiated their transfer to another country, some of them highly-skilled but others working in mid-status roles as nurses and teachers.

Others will be low-status ('hidden') expatriates, among them domestic workers, security guards, cleaners, beauticians, and construction and agricultural workers. 

There are millions of migrants: people who have chosen, usually for reasons of standards of living, such as qualified immigrants, to make their life in a new country; or people who have been driven from their own country, such as refugees and asylum seekers, and now have to live in another one and who see no real prospect of going home. 

There are other internationally mobile workers as well: short-term assignees, international business travellers (IBTs), and international commuters.

There are even ‘non-employees’ – independent contractors temporarily deployed by companies to work for them abroad but without employment status with the organisation.

A global worker is anybody who lives and works outside their home country but who is not yet or has only recently become a citizen of the host country. It includes people that hold permanent residency without holding citizenship and those looking for residency and/ or work permits (refugees). Practitioners only focus on those workers that are legally entitled to reside and work abroad as these are the people who come under the remit of an organisation’s HRM. For this reason, it excludes some refugees and those in illegal employment.

It is imperative that we take a more comprehensive view of the full range of options for working internationally. Global workers are people who bring wider experience, often heightened cultural awareness, language skills and sometimes possibilities for international networking. Given the range of their experience and the varied forms of their international work, they are undoubtedly ‘talent’ that organisations cannot afford to ignore.