Expat Focus Financial Update 2 May 2016

Thousands of expat oil and gas jobs to go

The slump in oil prices has seen 84,000 jobs in Texas disappear in the last 16 months, and 150 workers are laid off every day in Britain’s oil and gas industry.

In addition, a recent OPEC summit which wanted to freeze production levels but failed in its bid will lead to thousands more jobs in the oil sector disappearing.Indeed, this year alone will see 45,000 jobs in the North Sea disappear with similar figures for expats working across other OPEC countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America also seeing opportunities diminishing.

However, there are still expat job opportunities in pipeline inspections and maintenance as well as in America’s booming wind farm industry.

One report in the Wall Street Journal highlights the growing problem with one consultancy revealing that around the world 300,000 workers have being laid off in the energy industry.

Many expat workers are struggling to find opportunities overseas and are increasingly unlikely to find work back in their home countries too.

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Expats in UAE face higher health costs

Expat jobs and salary levels in UAE are coming under threat with soaring health insurance costs for employers, says a new study.

The Insurance Authority says that the cost of premiums for employers has risen by 12% between 2013 and 2014, with premiums rising by 9.5% last year. Annual inflation for the UAE is 2.5%.

The rise in premiums is outstripping the increase in health care costs, which grew by around 9% in the five years leading up to 2013.

A spokesman for International SOS, which conducted the study, said: “This is of serious concern for employers and the total cost for employment. Healthcare inflation is a threat to jobs, bonuses and pay rises. Firstly, not many people are aware of this and those who are manage their own insurance needs.”

The survey also found that expats generally choose a health care provider which is recommended by others, but they need to assess more information to make an informed choice and not one just based on cost.

Expats in some fields earn double local salaries

Expats working in the aid and development fields around the world are earning double the salaries of local employees in what has been described as ‘economic apartheid’ by some countries.

A study found a huge difference between local staff and expats’ wages, with the difference ranging from double to ten times the salary for local staff who have similar qualifications.

The ESCR-funded study for Addup says that the disparity in wages is causing feelings of injustice in the workplace – and it is also being blamed for a “brain drain”, with locals migrating abroad for better pay.

While many expats will dismiss as a non-issue the system of salary payments, local workers told researchers that it was a concern for them. They expressed feelings of injustice and being less valued than expat colleagues.

They also pointed towards employers helping with more paid leave, children’s school fees, health insurance and accommodation – all the benefits that local employees do not receive.

The resulting animosity can lead to international aid programmes being undermined and should be addressed, say the authors of the report.

Brexit fears for British expats in Europe

Of the British expats living and working in Europe, 68% are worried about the impact of a vote to leave the European Union, according to a study.

The research was conducted by deVere Group also found that 24% of respondents were not worried about the impact of Brexit and 8% did not know.

The financial firm’s chief executive, Nigel Green, said: “There is a major concern amongst thriving expat communities about a possible Brexit. Worries are from all income brackets and age groups and different destinations where Britons reside.”

Expats are particularly concerned about their health care and pension rights as well as the pound weakening against the euro.

Meanwhile, UK expats in Europe are being warned they may not keep their pension rights if the country votes for leaving the EU.

Ros Altmann, the pensions minister, gave the warning in Parliament and said that under EU law there was ‘no requirement’ for pension rights to be maintained if the UK left the EU.

She added that there was uncertainty about how the pension system would work in the event of a vote to leave, with UK citizens currently enjoying a range of rights to live and work and gain access to health care, public services and pensions under EU law.

Expat remittances in the Middle East reach $120 billion

Expats working in the Middle East sent home $120 billion last year, according to Xpress Money.

The figure is rising strongly, with Arab nationals particularly transferring cash from one Arab country in the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC to another.

In addition, the survey reveals that expat Arab nationals are not just sending money more frequently but also sending larger amounts, with 71% of them doing so and 38% sending cash home every month. Most send between $700 and $1,000.

A spokesman for Xpress Money said: “The GCC has a vibrant job market for Middle Eastern expat Arabs who understand the language and culture and are well-placed for job opportunities in tourism and trade.”

The firm says that the trend for creating jobs and sending money home will continue in the years to come, particularly with the 2022 FIFA World Cup being held in Qatar and Dubai’s Expo2020.

Expat opportunities in Africa

There are growing opportunities for expats in Africa but many firms are reducing the numbers they employ, according to a report.

Employers are looking towards expat communities that are established in developed economies with a view to bringing them to work for multinational organisations in Africa, according to executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

Indeed, the firm says that many multinational companies are finding they cannot deploy the traditional model of using expat executives in Africa’s quickly developing countries and that local talent is in short supply.

A spokesman for the firm said: “There are many reasons for this, one of which is the extremely high cost of living in many African cities.”

Among the reasons cited for the lack of enthusiasm from expats to move there include a negative image of the continent, including terrorism, Ebola and a lack of local infrastructure. In addition, employers need to spend substantial money on luring expats by laying on international school fees and drivers.

The executive search firm adds that expats may also not be adaptable and resilient enough to help deal with the pressures that come living in an environment that is very different from what they are used to.

One solution for multi-national firms is to employ more African expats such as Zimbabweans, Cameroonians and Kenyans who are keen to work elsewhere in Africa to broaden their experience and develop their careers.

Thailand asks searching questions

Expats wanting to live and work in Thailand will need to hand over bank account information as well as their social media usage, the country has stated.

In addition, expats and tourists alike will need to reveal the nightclubs and restaurants they go to – the questions are asked as they enter the country as part of an elaborate form.

The government says providing the extra information is not mandatory but this is not stated on the form.

Expats will also need to hand over details of any cars and motorbikes they use and the license plates.

The government says it has brought in the new form since the growing expat population has led to a surge in crime, and the new form will help them track down criminals.

In addition to growing expat opportunities, Thailand is also seeing nearly 30,000,000 tourists arrive every year to enjoy its beaches and laid-back lifestyle.

Expats may not be safe travelling in Africa

Executive expats may be risk travelling in Africa for business purposes and employers need to take more steps in providing appropriate risk management procedures, says one firm.

Financial services company Risk Benefit Solutions (RBS) says that organisations and companies expanding their African operations need to appreciate the potential dangers their staff may find themselves in.

Among the issues the firm highlights are rising social and political unrest in some countries and a growing threat of expats being kidnapped – the continent accounts for 30% of all reported kidnappings in the world, making it the second-highest region.

RBS says that employers should only arrange transport for expat executives using well vetted and trusted sources and provide sufficient protection after analysing the potential risks their employees may encounter.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: “Expat travellers should also avoid displaying signs of affluence or wealth and have realistic contingency plans should their travel be disrupted.”

Expat doctors needed in Scotland

A delegation of health board officials from Scotland is heading to Australia to persuade more GPs to return home for work.

They will be attending a major medical conference in Perth in a bid to meet Scottish expat GPs and interest them in returning to general practice.

A spokesman for the NHS said: “with more investment in general practice, and the development of a new contract, access to the pension scheme of the NHS means Scotland is needing its trained GPs to return. There is much to recommend working in Scotland as a general practitioner right now.”

For Scottish GPs working in Australia, they will need to undertake a four-week induction programme before returning to general practice. Those who have worked in NHS general practice previously and working in Canada, New Zealand or Australia will not need to undertake an entry assessment. They will also be guaranteed a job soon after arriving in Scotland.

The safest countries for retiring US expats revealed

When American expats retire overseas they are usually looking for somewhere safe to live, where they can expect a good standard of living.

A new survey has revealed which countries are cheapest in comparison with their peacefulness.

The Global Peace Index has ranked 162 nations, which includes most of the world’s population, to come up with the list.

The number one country in the index is Austria, though expat retirees wanting to live here will need a residence permit and must be able to prove that they have sufficient financial means to live there. The country also offers high living standards and a very good infrastructure.

The next country is Australia which is growing in popularity as a retirement destination, largely down to a strong US dollar. Along with rugged natural beauty, there is a laid-back lifestyle and vibrant cities with a cosmopolitan makeup.

The third country on the list for the top countries for US expats to retire to is the Czech Republic, followed by Portugal and then Slovenia. The remaining top 10 consists of Spain, Malaysia, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay.

Most of the countries will require a long-term residence visa and some insist on health insurance regardless of how long the expat is planning to live there.

In addition, Portugal and Spain are highlighted for their low cost of living, while Costa Rica offers US expat retirees a number of special perks including healthcare, and Uruguay offers a national health system which offers US citizens quality medical treatment.


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