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Employee benefits and third culture kids: What do global citizens want most from employers?

“Where are you from?” is a common ice-breaker-esque question that we’ve all been asked before. While most of us will find it an easy question to answer, the same might not be said for the burgeoning tribe of third culture kids (or TCKs).

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Have you met someone born in Australia, who grew up in Bahrain, went to school in Switzerland, and now works in Hong Kong? First coined by a US sociologist in the 1950s, the term “third culture kid” describes youngsters who’ve spent a large part of their formative years outside their parents’ culture.

People who fit the bill tend to be children of expats, but can come from transnational marriages, and/or those who studied in an international school. By mixing and merging their birth culture with their adopted culture, TCKs in effect create one of their own: a third culture.

As the internationally mobile community continues to grow, employers are increasingly demanding the unique abilities and skills that this special demographic can offer to today’s diverse workplace. To that end, this article by our employee benefits specialists explores the types of corporate health insurance and wellness benefits that third culture kids desire the most.

How many third culture kids are out there?

Due to globalization and the transient geographical nature of most millennials’ careers, it’s become a growing phenomenon: third culture kids are part and parcel of the world’s multicultural fabric.

So, exactly how many TCKs are out there? While there are no official figures on the population of TCKs, a rough estimation can be made based on the number of expats in the world: 230 million! It must be noted here, however, that “expat” as a term is not synonymous with “third culture kid”, as not all expats spent their formative years in a culture outside their parents’ culture. Nevertheless, here are a few interesting facts about the growing tribe of global nomads:

  • 4 is the average number of cities lived
  • 4.5 is the average age of the first move
  • Most TCKs work in education, business management, medicine, self-employment, and highly skilled positions
  • 85% are bilingual
  • 44% acquired an undergraduate degree before the age of 22
  • 30% have a postgraduate qualification

Prospects for third culture kids

In the international business world, the skills and abilities possessed by many adult-TCKs can make them very attractive job candidates. A number of studies, reports, and anecdotal articles say that third culture kids tend to be:

  • Great cross-cultural communicators: In an increasingly globalized world, cross-cultural communication skills is an asset to almost every profession. People who have been exposed to a rich tapestry of cultures tend to communicate with people from different backgrounds with ease, and have an increased global perspective to their monocultural peers.
  • Highly educated: According to one study, TCKs are four times more likely to have a Bachelor’s degree, and roughly one third go on to a Master’s degree. While this might indicate a higher level of financial freedom necessary to pursue higher education, respondents credited their achievements partly to better quality of education available abroad.
  • Flexible with unusual or new situations: “Flexibility” is one of the top four traits CEOs look for, according to Forbes. Because they are used to changing behavior, language, or customs to suit various situations, TCKs are often highly adaptive, open-minded, and have a natural ability to act like chameleons.
  • Good at languages: When moving to a new country, parents tend to take a long time to learn the local language. Younger children, however, usually learn new languages fairly effortlessly. As such, TCKs are more likely to be multilingual. This often plays a key role in their choice of career.

article image third culture kid

The flipside

As TCKs transition into adulthood, they might begin to question their identity due to the complex nature of their upbringing. While they tend to have a broader worldview, their lifestyle can generate feelings of restlessness and rootlessness, where “home is everywhere and nowhere”. Another common problem faced by global nomads is trouble dealing with those who are less “worldly” than themselves.

Employee benefits that appeal most to third culture kids

Did you know that 78% of job candidates look at a company’s employee benefits package before deciding whether to accept or decline an offer? Being ahead of the competition can be more difficult when it comes to attracting TCK talent, many of whom have multiple citizenships and hence the right to choose to work in more than one country. To help, the following includes the key types of employee benefits that TCKs might find the most appealing:

International health coverage

Due to their international upbringing, it doesn’t come as a surprise that most TCKs travel more frequently than non-TCKs. Catering to their unique needs with a comprehensive group health insurance policy that includes international coverage can therefore be essential.

On the importance of international coverage, Jessica Lindeman, Digital Marketing Executive at Pacific Prime, says: “As a third culture kid, my friends and family are scattered all around the world. International health insurance benefits are therefore extremely important to me, as they ensure that I have access to private healthcare no matter where I go. This is why, whenever I was searching for jobs in the past, I would always look out for whether a prospective employer offers international health coverage.”

Mental health benefits

TCKs often possess many desirable talents such as open-mindedness and cross-cultural communication skills, but also tend to experience a unique set of challenges including problems with their own identity. They can also experience issues fitting in with people who are not as “internationally minded” as they are. As such, offering employee benefits that include mental health insurance coverage, as well as Employee Assistance Programs that provide counselling services and support resources, can go a long way in ensuring increased retention and productivity, as well as decreased absenteeism and health insurance claim costs.

Keep your staff retention high by including these top 3 non-monetary employee benefits.

Getting help with employee benefits for third culture kids

Maybe your company is getting ready for a big change in the makeup of your employees, or you’re an HR specialist looking to stay ahead of your competition when attracting new talent. When it comes to attracting third culture kid employees, there’s no better decision than engaging the help of an experienced employee benefits specialist like Pacific Prime. As the broker of choice for over 3,000 corporate clients, our team are geared with the market intelligence necessary to put you ahead of the rest.

To learn more about how we can help with your employee benefits solutions, contact our team today!

Content Strategist at Pacific Prime
Jessica Lindeman is a Content Strategist at Pacific Prime. She comes to work every day living and breathing the motto of "simplifying insurance", and injects her unbridled enthusiasm for health and insurance related topics into every article and piece of content she creates for Pacific Prime.

When she's not typing away on her keyboard, she's reading poetry, fueling her insatiable wanderlust, getting her coffee fix, and perpetually browsing animal Instagram accounts.