Singapore


British expats fall out of love with Australia and look to Asia for career opportunities

by Ray Clancy on October 1, 2015

Australia has fallen from the top spot for British expats abroad to seventh place globally with China, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore now taking the top places, the latest quality of life index shows.

It is a change in the profile of the average expat that has seen Asian countries climb the annual quality of life index compiled by NatWest International. It is the first time that Australia has been outside the top three since the index began eight years ago.

china-641112_640In addition to Singapore climbing four places to claim the top spot, China has risen to third place from fifth and Hong Kong has risen to fifth place from eighth.

The report says that it is no coincidence that there has been a 34% increase in the number of temporary expats working in China and Singapore and a 29% increase in those living in Hong Kong.

By comparison, over the same period, temporary expats living in the United States have fallen by 17%. This has impacted the ranking for similar countries outside Asia also, such as the UAE which rose to second place and also saw a 34% increase in temporary workers.

The report suggests that the shift in temporary expats’ destination is largely due to the growing demand for British professional skills in a number of prominent Asian and Arabic countries, following rapid economic growth and a greatly improved standard of living.

The vast majority of expats in Asia, for instance, experienced an increase in disposable income after relocating, particularly in Singapore at 83%, Hong Kong at 78% and China at 72%.

This in stark contrast to European countries included in the index, which indicated that around a quarter of all expats now felt nervous or anxious about their economic situation, most notably 22% in Portugal, 26% in Spain and 28% in France.

As well as Australia, the US, France and Spain, all once very popular with British expats, have all fallen down the rankings. The US, in fifth place in 2012 is now ranked ninth while France has fallen from fourth in 2009, 2010 and 2011 to eleventh. Spain is now 12th, down from seventh in 2008 to 2011.

Looking ahead, the study indicates that the average profile of an expat will continue to shift in the coming years. Currently just over half of all British expats, 54%, are working on temporary assignments abroad but six years ago this percentage was just 11 and this is likely to shift further as working overseas becomes more expected in the UK’s working culture.

Other trends are also likely to continue due to the changing expat culture. Younger people, for instance, are already significantly more likely to live abroad than they were in the past, with those aged 25 to 35 making up 27% of all expats compared to 16% in 2011.

The gender gap is also closing for the average British expat with women now making up nearly half of all expats at 46% compared to 33% in 2011.

“Our eight year Quality of Life Index has seen your typical expat change significantly. Previously, moving abroad was a huge life commitment which would entail a complete upheaval for all involved,” said David Isley, head of NatWest International Personal Banking. “With the advances in remote working and new means available to keep in touch with family, people are more prepared than ever to pack their bags in search of both adventure and a way to improve their career prospects.”

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