Japan has overtaken the U.K. as the most expensive place to send overseas employees to work, a new report has found.

The average expatriate package in Japan costs employers $405,685 – more than any other international business hub, according to “MyExpatriate Market Pay” survey by data company ECA International.

The study — which takes into account cash salaries, benefits, and tax — points to an uptick in the overall cost of mid-level ex-pat packages in Japan. It comes even as other parts of the world saw the price of accommodation and benefits take a hit due to the pandemic.

The U.K. fell from the top spot to rank as the second most expensive location to send overseas employees in 2020. The others that ranked high on the overall cost list were India, China and Hong Kong.

France, the United States, Switzerland, Argentina and Taiwan rounded out the top 10.

ECA International’s regional director, Lee Quane, said the uptick in Japan was due primarily to currency fluctuations, with the Japanese yen remaining steady relative to the U.S. dollar last year.

Unlike many other locations in Asia, housing costs rose moderately in Tokyo in 2020 versus 2019.
Lee Quane

“There was also some inflation in other areas of the compensation and benefits package,” he added. “For example, unlike many other locations in Asia, housing costs rose moderately in Tokyo in 2020 versus 2019. This contributed to higher benefits costs, and consequently, led to higher overall costs.”

The annual study aims to assist companies looking to relocate staff by benchmarking their packages against the market. As well as cash salaries, many employers compensate ex-pat workers with benefits such as accommodation, school fees, and transportation.

This year, the overall cost of employing ex-pat workers broadly fell as the pandemic and resultant travel restrictions lowered demand — and therefore costs — of accommodation and other benefits.

In many places, expats’ take-home pay saw a hit too, falling in relation to 2019 levels. Hong Kong was one of just a few to see an increase in ex-pat salaries.

“The cost of employing an expatriate in Hong Kong was lower in 2020 than in previous years, but this was indicative of a much larger global trend,” said Quane.

“While salaries for expatriates in Hong Kong rose by less than 1%, employers were able to benefit from lower accommodation costs, and reduce the amount of financial support provided for housing compared to the previous year.”

There were some notable outliers this year, however. Taiwan, Canada, and Morocco were three locations that joined the top 20 in 2020 as the overall cost of ex-pat packages rose.

“The cost of employing a mid-level expatriate in Taiwan increased by $10,733 last year,” said Quane, noting the island’s strong response to the pandemic boosted house prices. “Consequently, Taiwan has leapfrogged nations such as South Korea and Australia in our rankings, and is now the tenth most expensive location to employ expatriate staff.”

Alaska Airlines will require unvaccinated employees to be tested regularly for Covid-19 but the Seattle-based carrier stopped short of mandating vaccines, a policy it said it was considering last month.

Alaska said employees who share proof of vaccination by Oct. 15 will receive a $200 bonus. Three-quarters of the airline’s roughly 20,000 employees are vaccinated so far.

Airline vaccine policies for their staff vary. United Airlines will require its roughly 68,000-person U.S. workforce to be vaccinated by Sept. 27, barring religious and medical exemptions. Delta Air Lines last month announced it plans to impose a $200 surcharge for medical insurance for unvaccinated employees in November.

Alaska Airlines said it will no longer cover the pay of unvaccinated employees for Covid exposure or infection. Unvaccinated staff must also attend “a vaccine education program.”

New hires must be vaccinated to work at Alaska Airlines or subsidiary Horizon Air, also a requirement to begin work at Delta.

The US National Labor Relations Board is looking into allegations that Apple retaliated against a senior engineer who has accused the tech group of permitting a hostile work environment. Ashley Gjovik, a senior engineering program manager who joined Apple in 2015, filed a “Charge against Employer” last week describing 13 instances of alleged retaliation including workplace harassment, job reassignment, and reduction of supervisory responsibilities. Gjovik was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave a month ago while Apple investigated the matter. The NLRB accepted the case on August 30, according to documents seen by the Financial Times. Another Apple software engineer, Cher Scarlett, filed a complaint to the NLRB on September 1 on behalf of herself and other employees alleging the suppression of worker organizing, specifically with regard to pay surveys and gender pay equity. The action came after she built a tool that supported pay transparency at Apple, which resulted in both support and criticism of her actions, which she documented on Twitter. Reuters first reported the news. Gjovik, who told the FT that her tenure at Apple had been a “nonstop hostile work environment and bullying and retaliation”, has been prolific on social media in recent weeks in drawing attention to allegations of sexism and a hostile work environment at Apple. Apple said in a statement: “We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.” Gjovik’s advocacy has played a role in the creation of #AppleToo, a movement of anonymous Apple employees on social media who have called for more accountability at the $2.5tn tech group long known for corporate secrecy.  The advocacy group said on its website: “We’ve exhausted all internal avenues. We’ve talked with our leadership. We’ve gone to [Apple’s] people team . . . Nothing has changed.” Gjovik’s specific complaints against Apple date back to mid-March when she cited unsafe working conditions related to “chemical exposure” at her Apple office in Sunnyvale, California, where more than 100 employees are based. Her office, known as “Stewart 1” within Apple, is located on what the Environmental Protection Agency refers to as the “TRW Microwave Superfund site”, a location requiring special oversight owing to previous contamination by hazardous waste materials in the soil and groundwater beneath the building.

In 2016, Apple paid $450,000 to settle state claims that it mishandled hazardous electronic waste at facilities at their Cupertino headquarters and Sunnyvale. Gjovik said her concerns were brushed aside and she was warned against speaking up about them. In her letter to the NLRB, she said Apple’s employee relations department “intimidated me not to speak about my safety concerns”, that a manager advised she quit Apple and that she was subject to sexism and a “dramatically increased” workload. Matters escalated when she took her complaints to Apple’s Slack channels, specifically a 2,000-member forum for female software engineers. She said she was flooded with supportive comments and similar stories of workplace harassment — but she had since been banned from using Slack as part of her administrative leave.