Retirement and pension plans are a major concern for most expats based in Europe, according to a labour market survey, but most are happy with healthcare. Those who have moved to Europe are generally happy with the labour policies and welfare benefits as compared with their home countries, but they are not happy with their pension benefits, the research by Expactica shows.
The reasons for expats’ dissatisfaction with pension benefits vary, the survey shows. Some said they don’t qualify for the full amount of state pension as they only spent a certain amount of years working in their newly-adopted country, while others complained they are paying into an unportable pension plan.
‘You can only get a full pension here if you have been continually residing in the country since your 15th birthday. I moved here when I was 29, so I will automatically lose 28% of my pension benefits,’ said one expat living in Holland.
‘My husband, who is Dutch and was born here, lived in the UK for 13 years, so will automatically lose 26% of his pension,’ she added. ’I am paying into a pension which I will be unable to claim should I leave the country which is likely to happen before I am pensionable,’ said a British expat.
Expats who have moved across continents said the financial crisis has also left them at the mercy of currency fluctuation, the survey also shows. ‘My retirement funds were accumulated in the US in dollars, and since moving to Belgium these have been cut nearly in half by the weakening dollar,’ said a 61-year-old expat living in Wavre.
However, expats in France appear to be happier with the pension system. A British expat living in Chateauroux said: ‘In France, they give you 50% of your best 10 years’ worth of salary and that is your pension. You also get a chance to top it up and get a better pension.’
Expats from Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand were the most satisfied with labor market policies and welfare benefits. One Canadian living in Belgium said he benefitted from 13 more days a holiday a year and an Asian expat told the survey that he felt employers in Holland were more protective of their workforce.
‘The taxes we pay are used very well. Healthcare is great, the roads and parks are very much better maintained than in Australia, education is wonderful, and food is much cheaper,’ commented an Australian expat based in Holland.
‘Healthcare is included in the social security package in Spain, in the US it is not. I am very satisfied with the quality of healthcare here. In the US I worried about what would happen to me if something happened that my overpriced insurance wouldn’t pay for,’ said a Madrid-based American in her 20s.
While most expats said they appreciate how much employees are protected by European laws, they agreed it makes the labour market somewhat inflexible. ‘The market is stagnated by the difficulty of firing employees. People are afraid to hire permanent employees because you can never get rid of them. So they hire less people or they play around with temporary contracts,’ explained an American expat living in France.