Expat Focus International News Update April 2018

Without tailored support expat assignments could fail

Employers should be considering the various needs of their expat employees, including their different life stages and age groups, in a bid to avoid their overseas assignments from failing, one health insurance intermediary says.

The Health Insurance Group says that business relocation and travel overseas was mainly carried out by older staff in years gone by but employers are as likely today to send employees aged in their 20s and 30s overseas.HIG says employers should be reviewing the support they are offering during each stage of the expat’s move abroad, helping them adapt to their new country and also supporting them when returning home.

As an example, the firm says that a married person may feel the strain while trying to maintain their long-distance relationship, which is a different experience from a single person or an expat employee who has moved abroad with their family.

The Health Insurance Group says that employers should be preparing beforehand and seeking expert advice about the support they could offer expats.

The firm’s head of international, Sarah Dennis, said employers make overseas assignments more difficult with a one-size-fits-all approach. She added: “Successful employers offer tailored support to their employees’ differing needs and they reap the benefits in terms of staff productivity and engagement.”

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Rising oil prices leads to rising demand for expats

Expats will be among the beneficiaries of rising oil prices as Gulf countries look to employ 9% more people this year, says one recruitment firm. GulfTalent says it has surveyed more than 1,100 chief executives in the Gulf Co-operation Council’s six member states.

The biggest factor for improved employment confidence is down to rising oil prices and 18% of Kuwaiti firms are predicting boosting their staff levels. In the UAE, 13% of employers are looking for more personnel.

However, the expat jobs sector in Saudi Arabia is set to fall by 2%, though this is down to the kingdom’s Saudisation policies to replace expat workers with Saudis.

Limited supplies of crude oil and a similar Omanisation process means that the number of jobs in Oman will increase by just 2% this year. Of the sectors to see an upsurge in demand will be for financial professionals, human resource experts as employers look to rebuild their HR teams and marketing professionals.

The survey also highlights that the prospects for expat employment in the GCC will be dominated by men with employers hiring one woman for every three men.

The GulfTalent survey also highlights that professionals in their 30s will be in the most in-demand followed by expats in their 40s. The biggest competition for jobs will be faced by young expat professionals in their 20s.

Best countries for expat women

While women heading overseas for an expat assignment could boost their career, there are also financial drawbacks they need to consider, says one expat organisation.

A survey carried out by InterNations of more than 7,000 women found 51% of them are satisfied with their career opportunity. However, 33% of expat women say their income overseas is lower than they would earn in a similar job in their home country. For men, this figure is 25%.

The best countries for female expats to head to are Mexico, Myanmar and Cambodia. Bahrain and New Zealand also rate highly and offer excellent career prospects to expat women.

The survey also reveals that 47% of women who have moved overseas for work reasons found their job on their own.

When earnings were considered, 29% of women in Mexico are earning more than they would at home and 68% are satisfied with their career – though 26% say they are unhappy about working 45 hours a week.

The top 10 best countries also places the UK in seventh place, the US in eighth with Kenya in ninth and Ireland in 10th. Surprise entry Kazakhstan takes the sixth spot.

Expats find emerging cities increasingly appealing

The city offering expats the best quality of living is Vienna for the ninth year running, according to a survey.

Mercer’s annual Quality of Living survey reveals that most cities in Europe are offering the highest quality of living in the world and remain attractive destinations for many expats.

However, the survey also highlights that cities in emerging markets are quickly catching up with European cities after decades of infrastructure investment and a boost in recreational facilities to help attract multinational businesses and talent.

With Vienna in top spot, Zurich is in second place and joint third place is taken by Auckland and Munich. Vancouver is in fifth spot and is North America’s highest ranking city. The worst city for expats is Baghdad in Iraq.

A spokeswoman for Mercer’s said that retaining and attracting talent will be a key challenge over the next five years for many businesses with globalisation increasing and the workforce demographic changing.

She added: “The diverse workforce will increasingly be more digital and mobile with highly diverging aspirations and requirements in terms of their lifestyle, career and where and how they want to work.”

The firm says that employers should consider these factors for their expat and local employees.

Expat personality characteristics impact successful assignments

For any employer looking to send an expat employee on an overseas assignment should look at their personality since this will have a big impact on the success of the assignment, researchers say.

The findings from Florida Atlantic University reveal that the personality characteristics of an expat will indicate how well they will adjust to their new surroundings and provide a return on their employer’s investment.

One of the study’s co-authors, assistant professor Michael Harari, said:

“Expats have difficulty adjusting to new environments and can suffer with poor well-being and experience conflict between the family and work life. All expats are different though some are more adept to adjusting where others are not.”

The study has just been published in a leading science journal which found that expats who tend to be extrovert are open to new experiences and are emotionally stable.

The researchers say these extroverts are better at forming social networks which helps them succeed with support.

Kuwait lays off 400 expats

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health has announced that it is to terminate the contracts for 400 expats working in technical posts including nursing, x-rays, pharmacy and laboratories. Those affected have, the ministry says, exceeded the legal retirement age of 65.

However, news outlets are reporting that other expats who have exceeded the age limit are being exempted because they have a specialisation and it is proving difficult to replace them in legal and accountancy fields.

It has also been revealed that Kuwait’s Ministry of Electricity and Water has laid off 85% of its expat workers.

The news followed an announcement from Kuwait’s National Assembly that lawmakers want ‘total Kuwaitisation by 2023’ which will see all expats working in the public sector being replaced.

Kuwait’s Civil Service Commission says it will also not renew the contracts for 3,108 expats by 1 July to create jobs for Kuwaitis.

Meanwhile, Kuwait has revealed it needs to recruit expat teachers in 11 subjects including English, biology, chemistry and French.

Applicants cannot be aged over 45 and women expats applying for physical education roles cannot be older than 32.

The Ministry for Manpower has also been told that it cannot issue work permits for expat engineers who are working in the country’s co-operative sector.

Kuwait has 52,000 empty flats for expats

To underline the falling numbers of expats in Kuwait, it’s been revealed that there are 52,000 residential flats currently empty.

The Kuwait Real Estate Association says the numbers will probably rise after June when the school year ends and a large number of expats have made plans to leave Kuwait and have already informed landlords of their intent. The association says rents are set to fall so landlords and building owners will avoid making a hefty loss.

They report that rents in some areas have dropped by up to 25% with 60% of newly constructed flats being too small or poorly-built to attract tenants.

The real estate experts say expats are leaving because of rising medical fees and the rising price of services and commodities, including electricity.

Oman might target other expat sectors for jobs crackdown

Oman has revealed that it is looking to extend visa restrictions to other sectors of its economy if its current six-month visa ban does not reach targets.

The Ministry of Manpower says some these restrictions may be lifted but other jobs may come under the visa ban.

In January, the ministry imposed a ban on expats working in 87 sectors including media, IT, engineering, insurance and accounting. The ban is up for revision in July and the ministry says it will check whether the numbers of expats has decreased or not before deciding whether to extend it.

Saudi Arabia sees expat exodus

According to Saudi Arabia’s Department of Passports, more than 811,000 expats have left the kingdom over the past 18 months. On average, around 1,500 expat workers left every day since the end of 2016. The exodus comes with tighter employment laws in a bid to boost Saudi employment levels.

Official figures highlight that 1.2 million exit/re-entry visas have been issued in the first three months of 2018, compared to more than 3 million in the same period in 2017.

The Department of Passports last year issued 1,186,449 final exit visas. The Kingdom’s new electronic systems also saw more than 7 million exit and re-entry visas being issued and 7.7 million Muqeem residency cards being renewed.

News of the expat exodus comes as the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics reveals that 350,000 new jobs will be created over the coming five years. While 210,000 of these will be occupied by expats, around 140,000 new jobs will be given to Saudis.

The unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia is 12.7% though it rises for those aged between 25 and 29 to 34.2%.

Also, the kingdom’s Interior Ministry says that nearly 930,000 expats have been arrested after violating the country’s border, work and residency laws. Meanwhile, the kingdom’s Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs is opposing moves to replace its experienced expat employees with recently-graduated Saudis.

The Ministry says that employing inexperienced Saudis will weaken the ministry’s quality and performance, a Saudi newspaper reports. One of the downsides of so many expats leaving, particularly from South Asian communities, is that ethnic food and sweets stores are being hit particularly hard. Sweet sellers in Jeddah and Riyadh say sales have fallen by around 50% and look likely to fall further.

In other news…

20 expat women in Oman have been jailed for dressing inappropriately in public places. The Royal Oman Police arrested the expats in Bausher’s Khuwair area.

Media outlets in Kuwait are reporting that expats with diseases such as cancer as well as diabetes and high blood pressure may be prevented from obtaining legal residency in the country. Lawmakers say they are looking to reduce the cost of expat healthcare and they want expats in the country that are fit to work.

The controversial good conduct certificate implemented by the United Arab Emirates has now been suspended. Thousands of expats are set to benefit.

The number of workers in Kuwait’s public sector has risen, says the Central Statistical Bureau. Of the 390,000 public sector employees, 26.3% of them are expats. The figures highlight that since 2013, the number of expats has risen by 12%.

A bid by MPs in Bahrain to force expats living there to renew their driving licence every two years has been rejected. Driving licences will be renewed every five years as is the current legal requirement.

Indonesia has undertaken an overhaul of its strict expat employment laws in a bid to boost the economy. Currently, expats can only be employed in a position that can’t be filled by an Indonesian employee and even then they need a strict employment license from the government. This stipulation will be relaxed under a law that was agreed at the end of March and will take effect in three months. More details will be announced later.


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