Survey reveals the changing shape of the British expat

by Ray Clancy on March 30, 2012

Economic prospects in the Far East are attracting British expats, survey finds

British expats are looking to the East to shape their lives in the future. As the economies of China and Singapore continue to boom, the number of people looking to move to Western Europe and the US are declining, a new survey reveals.

They are attracted to the Far East by the economic prospects, higher salaries and a less burdensome tax regime, the fifth annual NatWest International Personal Banking (NatWest IPB) Quality of Life Index has found.

In turn, the demand for British professional skills in the tiger economies is growing. This has led to an 18% increase in the number of expats working in China and Singapore while those working in the US have decreased 11%.

Over the past five years there has also been a growing number of people moving to South Africa, up 14%. There are an estimated 237,000 British expats in South Africa, higher than the number resident in France and New Zealand.

In contrast, there has been 27% decrease in the number moving to Western European countries, particularly Spain, Portugal and France.

The Quality of Life report also reveals the evolution of British expats. They are no longer the stereotypical expat longing for sun and sangria, but can now be identified as Lifers, Professionals, Globe Trotters, Commuters and Silver expats.

The Lifers are people living and working permanently in another country. The majority, 78%, move to English speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Their age ranges from 25 to 45 and they are mostly skilled or semi skilled workers.

The Professionals are those who are leaving the UK temporarily to work with every intention of returning. In the majority, 71%, they take up temporary work assignments. They move to various countries throughout the world, living in different cultures and societies. The average time spent abroad on assignment is three years. Their age ranges from 25 to 45 and they are mostly senior managers and professionals.

Globe trotters leave the UK to work for various companies around the world. They are highly mobile and do not live in any one country for any length of time. These global workers are in professionals, are aged 45 to 60 and over half, 53%, intend to return to the UK at some point.

Commuters have are permanent residents in the UK but work abroad for their UK based company for limited periods of time in various countries around the world, generally for a few months. They are senior executives aged 35 to 45. The research found that the number of people working on temporary assignments abroad has increased from 32% to 43% over the last five years.

Silver expats are those who sell up to retire abroad. At the time of leaving they have no intention of returning. The principal retirement destinations are in Western Europe.

Compared to the average, expatriates tend to be more highly educated and have a higher than average income. More than 30% of expats earn salaries in excess of £100,000 a year. In addition, many expats benefit from assistance with relocation, accommodation benefits and family benefits such as financial support for private schooling.

The research also found that to be happy expats need to have a desire to communicate with host country nationals in order to understand the culture. They do not cocoon themselves away endeavouring to re-create their life at home. They are cosmopolitans who seek to integrate into the society in which they are living.

Successful expats are also open minded and arrive in another country with fewer stereotypes and false expectations.

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