Almost five million British expats are now living and working abroad, helping to shape the communities they live in, according the fifth annual NatWest International Personal Banking Quality of Life Index.

Australia with 1.4 million, Spain with 940,000 and the United States with 794,000 are the top three most popular destinations for British expats. Canada has 630,000, South Africa 237,000 and France 225,000.

Other popular destinations are the United Arab Emirates with 64,000, Singapore with 49,000, Portugal with 47,000, and China (including Hong Kong) with 38,000.

The report, compiled in conjunction with the Centre of Future Studies, says that British expats have become ‘unofficial expat ambassadors’ shaping the global knowledge economy by promoting values to their host countries. Whether they are international civil servants, English language teachers, foreign correspondents of British newspapers, businessmen and businesswomen, English governesses, they all project an image of their Britishness around them.
‘Their contribution to local economies and communities, either financially or socially, cannot be underestimated. The common glue is the English language which has proved to be a vital tool and has played a leading role in the globalised world. It has provided a common platform for international drive, driven global collaboration and thinking, and opened the doors to opportunities around the world. The English language is an industrial tool now as basic as the screwdriver,’ said Dave Isley, head of NatWest International Personal Banking.
British business men and women are known for not only their expertise but also their ethical and transparent approach to conducting business. British expats are exerting their influence on how business is conducted and a significant proportion of British expats live and work in the world’s top business centres. Technology and management consultancy jointly followed by manufacturing and financial services are the top three industries that British expats operate in.

Beijing is among five Asian cities that make the top business centre lists and a high concentration of mining, construction and agricultural companies. In Beijing around 19,000 British expats are mainly employed in the information technology, telecommunication, education and finance sectors in researching, management and marketing positions.

Shanghai is home to China's major financial institutions and mainland stock exchange, receiving significant capital inflows from Hong Kong. It is estimated that 400,000 expats live in Shanghai, of which approximately 25, around 8,000, are British.

Singapore is the highest ranked Asian city on the list. It has become a gateway for businesses and investors trying to access to world's fastest growing consumer markets in China. Singapore has a population of 4.7 million of which about a million are foreigners. Of these, it is estimated that 45,000 are British.

British expats in the United Arab Emirates number approximately 100,000 if temporary residents are included and represent the largest western community. They are mainly in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in high salary white collar jobs.

There are now 74,264 teachers from the UK working in British international schools and it is predicted that by 2013 there will be nearly 115,000. In the last year alone, over 500 new English speaking international schools were opened across the world, most notably in Dubai, Qatar, Spain and China.

British education still has considerable cachet overseas. Many parents strongly believe that they are securing their children's future by sending them to a school that teaches in English. By 2013, Asia will have more than 1,600 British international schools.
‘The increase in the number of English speaking international schools means that the skills offered and the role teachers play in the community will continue to be in demand. The English language is a highly valued tool which is still held in high esteem by many parents across the globe,’ added Isley.