Expat Focus Financial Update 12 September 2016

Kuwait hits out at 'worst ranking' survey

Hot on the heels of the Expat Focus story last week that Kuwait has been ranked as the worst country in the world for expats to live in, its officials have criticised the survey.

The report by InterNations has been condemned by several MPs and one official has called for an investigation.Indeed, it appears the findings have been embarrassing for Kuwait, which points to growing numbers of expats moving to the country for work to prove it is a popular expat destination.

One newspaper is reporting that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour has set up a team to study the report and identify how it came to its conclusions.

The report asked expats what they thought about their quality of life, personal finances, family life, ease of settling in and working abroad.

Worryingly, Kuwait has seen a decline in every category for the issues being indexed, particularly in personal finance and working abroad.

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When the InterNations report was published, several MPs accused the organisation of defaming the country, saying that the findings were simply incorrect. Others pointed to Kuwait being an expat friendly destination with 70% of its population coming from abroad.

However, other commentators say the report may reflect the fact there is a trend for reducing the number of expats working in the public sector and a freeze on recruiting foreign workers.

Australian employers do not always recognise expats’ experiences

A report published in Australia reveals that while growing numbers of Australians are rushing to work overseas, their Australian employers do not always appreciate their skills when they return home.

The report by accountants PwC says that the number of expats who are living in Asia will grow from one in five currently to one in three by 2030 – or 450,000 Australians will be working in Asian countries.

However, PwC says Australian employers aren’t interested in using expat skills, with just 2% of senior execs and 4% of directors in the country’s leading companies having any experience of working in Asia.

The report also reveals that Australian business and governments have no idea how to conduct business in Asia; the corporate sector is in desperate need of ‘Asian literacy’ to develop opportunities.

Career expats earn more

Expats who look to boost their earnings by working overseas generally stay for shorter periods of time than other expats but also earn more than them, according to research.

The findings from InterNations revealed that most expats looking to boost their earnings are working in manufacturing, the public sector or consumer goods. Most say they are happy and have benefited from moving overseas financially with one in three living apart from their partner during their time abroad.

Most of these career expats are men aged 42 and they live overseas for between one and three years, with just 16% being tempted to live in their new country forever.

For most expats, it’s around 85%; the main reason for relocating is that they were sent overseas by their employers, though other aspects also played a part in their decision to move.

Among those reasons are expats looking for a better quality of life, improvement to their financial situation, or a desire to live in a partner’s country.

Most of these expats had help from their employer to move overseas. 75% were helped to get a work permit and visa and 65% said their company had paid for their relocation costs. However, 6% of those questioned said their employer paid nothing at all.

Generally, expats are working longer hours when on an overseas assignment. 63% say they are happy with their work-life balance and 72% say they are happy in their work. 73% say they are happy about their financial situation.

When questioned about their finances, 38% said their annual household income is US$100,000 every year, with 10% saying they were earning more than US$200,000.

Educated expats leave Oman

The number of educated expats who are working in Oman is falling as employers look to scale back their workforce numbers.

The latest data reveal that expats holding degrees and doctorates fell by 1,800 in the first seven months of this year.

However, the number of expats with only secondary education, or no education whatsoever, rose slightly over the same period.

One firm’s HR manager told a newspaper that she was seeing experienced and qualified expats choosing to leave Oman because of job security fears and looking to develop their career elsewhere.

She added that many are opting to leave because they have been laid off, with many employers now looking for a cheaper alternative, or they have nationalised the expat’s position for an Omani.

Most of these educated expats are apparently heading to other GCC states.

Amsterdam is 'shunned' by expats

Education and housing shortages is leading to expats ‘shunning’ Amsterdam, according to TomTom’s chief executive.

Harold Goddijn told one news outlet that the cost of housing as well as the lack of international schools means expats are increasingly steering clear of the city.

He said that his firm, which is a leading employer in the city with 1,000 employees from 60 nationalities among its staff, liked being located in Amsterdam since it is a growing international hub particularly for creative businesses but the international education system and the housing market are now showing cracks.

His views were backed by the employers’ association, VNO-NCW, which says the city’s housing market is creating a problem for companies wanting to attract expat talent.

One housing platform says that people renting a non-rent-controlled home will be paying more than €2,000 a month, and hopes that Amsterdam is hoping to take advantage of Brexit by attracting firms from London will be hit because of its lack of affordable housing.

British expats enjoy buy to let

Leading buy to let mortgage provider, Skipton International, has announced it has now completed 500 buy to let mortgages for British expats since 2014.

The bank, which is registered in the Channel Islands, began offering the mortgages in response to the difficulties being experienced by British expats from other mortgage providers.

The bank’s managing director Jim Coupe said: “Since we launched expat mortgages two years ago, demand has been growing.”

He said that despite many expats enjoying good credit ratings and having high salaries in their country, many expats from the UK were struggling to get a mortgage for a buy to let investment from a UK bank.

Skipton has an online mortgage calculator which will show a British expat if they fulfil the bank’s criteria for obtaining an offshore mortgage. They have also opened their mortgage offering to self-employed applicants and expanded the list of eligible countries they will accept applications from.

Expat amnesty has good response

The amnesty announced by Qatar for expats who are living in the country illegally has seen a steady flow of people looking for help.

The three-month amnesty which runs from 1 September to 1 December saw the first expats turn up around midday on the first day to be screened by police and authorities.

Some were dealt with but others who did not have the relevant papers were asked to return. Once the process is completed, the expat will be offered an exit permit for leaving the country.

Any expats looking for a permit to leave will need to produce a valid passport and ID card or a copy of their entry visa.

British expats warned over pensions black hole

British expats are being warned to take a closer look at their pensions after it was revealed that the UK’s pensions deficit has now reached a record £710 billion.

The statistics from accountancy firm PwC reveal that around 6,000 employers with final salary pension schemes have £710 billion more in liabilities than they hold in assets for paying their retired staff.

The increase is being fuelled by weak share prices and lower than expected returns on government gilts and corporate bonds.

The revelations provoked alarm from pension industry experts, with many warning that prompt action is now needed.

The head of retirement at Hargreaves Lansdown, Tom McPhail, said: “Monetary policy may keep the economy going but it’s killing pension schemes and that has disastrous consequences for individuals looking to buy an annuity and for employees with a final salary scheme.”

A spokesman for PwC said: “This is a challenging environment for pension funds which is likely to endure for several years.”

The situation may mean it’s worthwhile for British expats, including those who have retired, to transfer their pensions into a QROPS or a SIPP but they will need to take advice from a qualified and regulated financial advisor.

Also, many expats who are working towards a gold-plated final salary scheme may be disappointed, according to the Pension Protection Fund (PFF) watchdog, which says that many of these expats may have been misled since the pension may not pay out what people are expecting.

Under the PFF protection scheme, 90% of the pension will be paid, though there is a £36,000 a year cap on those who retire at 65, and a lower amount if they take early retirement, which means those who have been saving higher sums every year could be disappointed if their pension fund hits trouble.

In addition, British pension savers who are aged 50 or younger should be preparing themselves for a final salary pension that pays out 10% less than it does now.

Expats backpacking in Australia and New Zealand given warning

Backpacking in Australia and New Zealand is a popular way to explore both countries for expats, and visas for these countries enable those doing so to work as they travel around.

Now backpackers are being warned by the Fair Work Ombudsman about rogue employers who are exploiting the young backpacking expats by making them work long hours, overcharging for accommodation, under paying them and threatening their visa status.

However, employers in Australia are hitting out at a planned tax on backpacker’s wages which will see them paying 32.5% in tax. They say the tax will put off backpackers from working in the fruit collection and wine making industries and that it should be scrapped.

The new backpackers’ tax is scheduled to start on 1 January and raise $540million over the next four years.

In other news…

One enterprising Spanish college has developed a course for worried British expats who want to become Spanish citizens. The Parnell Academy in Andalucia is aiming to teach the Spanish language along with knowledge of history, customs and culture so the expats can pass the country’s citizenship test. The course will be run with the group, Brexpats in Spain.

Romanian expats living and working overseas will get a chance to vote in government elections on 11 December and will be able to vote electronically after criticism that many had to queue for hours in consular services around the world in the last presidential ballot in November 2014.

Real estate experts in Kuwait say a surge in people selling property is because of mandatory DNA tests for anyone applying for an epassport. Now it is believed that those selling up have obtained Kuwaiti citizenship by providing false data or forgery. The government says it believes 250,000 of its citizens will refuse the test which will mean them losing housing, citizenship, their job and other privileges.

Bangladesh has launched a helpline for its expats to resolve problems they face and find information. It is being piloted in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Malaysia.

Pakistani expats are being warned to update their passports as the growing use of machine-readable passports around the world will mean they will be unable to travel. The country’s Foreign Office says there could be a ‘crisis’ since many expats overseas will not be able to return to Pakistan. Although many embassies can issue them, 25 embassies currently cannot.

Eastern European expats living in Switzerland have been banned from using names that aren’t recognised by the Swiss civil register’s typographic system. Along with expats who became naturalised citizens who had to change their name to comply the system also cannot adapt to baby names either.


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