Expatriate rewards and quality of life in Shanghai : is more (reward) sometimes less (quality of life)? : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Conventional wisdom holds that higher wages and incomes are a pathway to better quality of life and work life. In expatriate assignments, expatriate workers are often paid much more than their host nation’s counterparts, partly in recognition of the disruptions from relocating offshore from home, yet the expatriate's quality of life and quality of work life also depend on social integration in the host country and economy. In China for example, expatriate workers and host country nationals are told in official terms by government not to be "ostentatious" about their (relatively high) salaries and benefits. Such advice implies that ostentation and the very salary itself can, potentially, be a barrier to social integration with local people. This thesis explores whether higher expatriate remuneration is a blessing or can also be a curse, in terms of quality of life, quality of work life and integration with host country locals. Conceivably, more may sometimes be less when it comes to income, social engagement and quality of (work) life. Alternatively more income or material rewards may facilitate more social engagement with local community and better quality of (work) life. A survey of N = 122 expatriates living and working in Shanghai responded to an online questionnaire that reliably measured rewards, acculturation orientation, quality of life, quality of work life and psychological adaptation. The Critical Incident Technique also collected four incidents that participants felt had a (1) positive and (2) negative impact on (a) quality of life and (b) quality of work life. Acculturation orientation did not vary but adaptation (nervousness) partially mediated a significant positive link between wage and quality of social life and fully mediated between wage and sense of safety/security at work. Critical incidents reflected that achieving a high quality of life may be easier for high income earning expatriates because they are better resourced to deal with the challenges of a new environment. Specifically, more income facilitated more social life and engagement with other expatriates and that resulted in better quality of life within expatriate communities. Overall, therefore, more (wage income) was more, not less (quality of life and work life). These findings were consistent with culture shock as conceptualized within the stress and coping framework. A resource (income) decreased stress and facilitated coping (increasing or decreasing nervousness) resulting in better quality of life and work life. Specifically, higher income may have helped to make participants less nervous and as they became less nervous their quality of life and work life tended to partly improve. At least insofar as interacting with fellow expatriates at work and socially was concerned. Thematic analysis found very little indication that the participants in this study were, in practice, well integrated with the local Chinese community. Therefore, it could be argued that the acculturation measure used in this research measured the acculturation aspirations of the participants rather than their day-to-day functioning. Future research could include an acculturation measure that is less aspirational and more practical. There was also thematic evidence that problems with communication challenged an expatriates quality of (work) life. To remedy this future research could be conducted in a country where the language barrier is not so prominent. This research proposes a model of expatriate adjustment and wellbeing, against a backdrop of wages and income among expatriates in Shanghai. It allowed us to look back at expatriation pre Covid-19, providing potentially valuable lessons for the management of these kinds of international assignments in the future world of work.