Home » Expat Focus Financial Update 02 February 2017

Expat Focus Financial Update 02 February 2017

700,000 expats lost their jobs in the GCC last year

A report has revealed that 2016 was a tough one for expats working in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) six-nation community, with around 700,000 expats losing their jobs.

The findings come from Hayes Group International who say that 4% of the region’s 17 million-strong expat workforce lost their jobs.The reasons for this include employers tightening budgets because of falling energy prices. One in three employers said they had to reduce numbers by 17% in 2015 within their organisation and 11% last year.

In addition, 9% of expats in the region saw their wages being slashed last year, compared with 2% in 2015. The report also reveals that 52% of expats said their salaries did not change in 2016.

Hayes is now predicting that salaries will remain stable through 2017 and that the job situation will become ‘more favourable’ for expats, particularly for those working in industrial sectors.

Expat jobs and salaries increase in Asia Pacific

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A survey of more than 1,000 expats and employers across the Asia Pacific region has revealed that salaries there increased by between 3% and 6% on average in 2016.

The largest increases were seen in China with 40% of expats saying their salary had increased by more than 10%. The lowest increases were seen by expats in Singapore where 6% of respondents said they had seen minimal salary increases.

The findings from Links International also revealed that wages in China are expected to grow in 2017, with increases also being seen by expats in Singapore and Hong Kong.

The firm’s ‘salary snapshot’ also reveals that the number of expats being hired in the Asia Pacific region increased last year, though at a slower rate than was seen in 2015. This trend is expected to continue through 2017.

The most difficult roles for expat recruiters to fill in 2016 were in entry to middle level management roles in operations, sales and in risk and compliance.

When asked about their enthusiasm for employing expats, Chinese employers were the most enthusiastic with 53% saying they would consider hiring expats, compared to 21% who said the same last year.

Cost of living in Europe revealed

The most expensive country in Europe for its cost of living is Switzerland, says the European statistics agency Eurostat.

The organisation looked at the costs for a basket of goods and found that Denmark has the highest prices for cereals, bread, meat and fish while expats living in Cyprus are paying the most for cheese, milk and eggs.

Of all the 38 countries analysed, the cheapest is Romania for cereals and breads, Albania is cheapest for meat while Macedonia is cheapest for fish. Expats living in Poland are enjoying the cheapest dairy products.

Expats living in the UK are paying the most for tobacco products, while expats in Ireland are paying the most for alcohol.

Expat earnings in Kuwait revealed

Kuwait’s Central Statistics Bureau has revealed that two thirds of expats in the country are earning less than KD 180 (£471/$589) per month.

Around 25% of expats are earning between KD180 and KD360, while 16.5% are earning more than KD360 (£942/$1,178).

However, when the figures are broken down to reveal how much expats working in the country’s private sector earn, it reveals that 13% are earning more than KD420.

Organisations have reacted to the figures by saying that the plans to impose a tax on remittances made by expats to their families overseas would be a burden for low earners who are mostly expats working in construction, driving and cleaning.

Meanwhile, news outlets in Kuwait have revealed that the country is to take steps in a bid to regulate the expat employment market and limit the number of work permits that are issued.

Government authorities are also to be tackled about their expat recruiting processes and explain why they employ so many expats.

The reports also state that steps will be introduced to restrict the number of expats who have no qualifications or little education from entering the country.

One MP has also tabled a motion to restrict the number of expats to 50% of Kuwait’s population within the next seven years.

The MP says that 15% of all expats employed in the public sector should be replaced with Kuwaitis every year.

Exit permits in Qatar now free for expats

Qatar has announced that expats and companies will no longer need to pay for exit permits to leave the country.

Currently, all expats who are looking to leave Qatar for holidays or return to their home country must obtain permission from their employer before doing so.

Those expats in the country on a family visa do not need exit permits. Now the government says all ‘leave certificates’ will be issued for free in what will be a paperless process that needs no receipt.

British expats warned over pension transfers

The UK’s financial regulator has announced a crackdown on pension scams affecting British expats.

The move will also cover domestic pension transfers with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issuing an alert over its fears that growing numbers of expats are falling to scammers to transfer their pensions to unsuitable investments.

The FCA said it was concerned that consumers are receiving advice that puts them at risk of transferring their pension pot into unsuitable investments or ‘worse, being scammed’.

The FCA says the transfers are being made without the investor considering which assets their funds will be invested into and warns expats to be wary of international advisers who are using questionable sales practices.

Expats can calculate their end of service payments

A new online service is being launched in Qatar to help expats calculate their end of service payment.

The facility has been unveiled by the government and an expat simply needs to fill in their starting date with their employer, the date their contract ended, their basic salary and number of days they were paid every year, among other details.

Currently only available in Arabic, the aim is to bring in more transparency about the end of service payment and highlight to expats their rights in claiming it.

Some EU countries 'do not want early deal' for expats

British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned Parliament that there are some unnamed countries in the EU who are set against an early deal that would guarantee the rights of British expats in their country after Brexit.

Her response came after she repeatedly refused to guarantee the rights for around three million EU nationals living in the UK during negotiations – and the Prime Minister insisted she wants the same guarantee for Brits living in the 27 EU member states before committing to the EU nationals in the UK.

There were calls in a parliamentary debate that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK should be guaranteed immediately.

Meanwhile, there are fears that 100,000 British expats currently living in Spain may need to return to the UK before the country leaves the European Union over their healthcare fears.

Many are said to be worried about their health bills and are planning to move before they are left stranded in Spain, though experts on the situation say that Spain needs the expats and British tourists to help its economy.

Also, an early trade deal with Australia after Brexit will mean the UK having to relax its immigration rules for Australian expats, particularly the country’s business community.

The warning comes from Australia’s High Commissioner to London, who has also called for a streamlined visa system for Australians heading to the UK.

Expats in Oman face debt trap

Fears have been raised that expats living in Oman are facing a debt trap because of the country’s housing rent agreements.

Media outlets are reporting that with 90% of tenancy agreements running for at least 12 months, expats are trapped if they are employed on shorter employment contracts which many employers are apparently increasingly opting for.

Growing numbers of expats are being employed on six month contracts as falling oil prices and austerity measures take effect.

Unfortunately, when expats ask their landlords to reduce the length of the property’s lease, most refuse to meet the request and many landlords are wary of short-term leases because they must pay taxes and municipal fees on every tenancy renewal.

This means many expats are left with big bills to pay before they can leave Oman.

Meanwhile, the Sultanate’s Deputy Prime Minister is urging employers and authorities across all sectors to regulate how many expats they employ.

He told a Council of Ministers meeting that regulating the expat workforce and preventing it from growing in the future is the responsibility of all employment sectors and, he said, the move would help boost the employment prospects for young Omanis.

In other financial news…

Employers in Saudi Arabia will be penalised by the government if they withhold the passports of expats without their written consent. They will be fined SR2,000 (£427/$533) for doing so.

Growing numbers of expats are leaving Angola after the government slashed its budgets for public spending and cancelled hundreds of building projects. Thousands of expats have apparently returned to Europe as a result, with most of them said to be Portuguese.

Pakistani expats living in Europe are being urged to boost trade links between the country and the European Union by helping to promote the benefits of dealing with Pakistan. The call is being made by government ministers.

Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has backed the government’s stance on rejecting a bid to impose taxes on expat remittances, saying it will not benefit the country’s economy.

Expats and citizens alike are finding it harder to obtain a personal loan in the UAE, says a report. Banks have tightened their belts and profits are down because of low oil prices but also, the report points out, expats and citizens are also more cautious about taking on more credit.

Kuwait’s parliament has made efforts to clarify a previous announcement that expat teachers could face deportation for giving private lessons by stating that those expats who do so without authorisation will be deported, but those teachers who have been given consent will not be.

A mobile phone app aimed at expats in the UK to help them open a bank account more easily has been unveiled. Monese enables expats to upload passport or national ID photos to the app so the expat can carry out money transfers, online shopping and receive a salary.

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