Expat Focus International News Update June 2018

Best countries for expat work-life balance revealed

One of the world’s biggest networks for expats has put together a list of the best 10 countries for expats to enjoy their work-life balance.

According to InterNations, who interviewed more than 13,000 expats living in 188 regions, their findings highlight that expats who report being the happiest with their work-life balance are not necessarily working the fewest hours and it is the quality of life they enjoy outside of work that appears to count for more.The number one country for expats is Denmark which offers the shortest working week of the countries detailed. The average hours worked per week by expats in Denmark is 39.7.

In second place is the surprise entry of Bahrain, followed by Norway and the Czech Republic. New Zealand also makes the top 10 along with Sweden, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Oman and Malta.

Expats in Portugal and Indonesia also applaud the balance they enjoy between their private life and work. The research from expats also highlights the countries that have the worst work-life balance; they include Hong Kong, Italy, Greece, Kuwait and Japan.

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A new survey has highlighted the health implications for regular international business travellers.

Researchers from Columbia University and New York City University found that travellers who travelled for 21 days in a month or more will be 92% more likely to become obese than those travellers who only travel between one and six days every month. Business travellers also tend to suffer with higher blood pressure and issues with cholesterol.

One of the researchers, Andrew Rundle, said: “We found a correlation between business travel frequency and a wide range of behavioural and physical health risks. Comparing those who spend one to six nights away from home for business travel and those who spent 14 nights or more away from home we found had significantly higher body mass index and were more likely to report poor self-health, with clinical symptoms of depression, anxiety as well as alcohol dependence.”

He added that frequent business travellers also lacked physical exercise or activity and had trouble sleeping. However, of those international business travellers the researchers questioned, just 12% are travelling for more than 14 days in a month, though researchers also point to a study of World Bank staff which found those who travelled more also made significantly higher claims for health issues on their health insurance.

Female travellers put safety first

A survey has highlighted that 45% of female travellers are feeling less safe when travelling than they did five years ago.

The findings from AIG Travel highlight that safety is at the top of female travellers’ priorities when they are assessing a potential location. However, this does not prevent many female travellers from undertaking the journey. AIG says that employers should take a bigger role in educating their employees about travel safety.

The chief executive of personal insurance at the firm, Gaurav Garg, said: “Employers can tailor security and insurance programmes, with the help of their insurers, to meet the needs of their entire workforce.”

The insurer has also unveiled an initiative which shares advice on how women should research their travel destinations and becoming familiar with local customs and laws, as well as the tools they could use in adverse situations including crime and kidnapping.

Best passports for visa-free travel revealed

The best passport for visa-free travel is the Japanese one, which gives access to a record 189 destinations for its holder, according to the Henley Passport Index.

Their survey highlights that Germany and Singapore are in joint second place with 188 destinations, with third place being shared by six countries: France, Finland, Spain, Italy, Sweden and South Korea.

The fastest climber in the passport index is the UAE, which has risen 38 places since 2018 to reach 23rd place.

Kenyan issues ultimatum to thousands of expats

Kenya has unveiled a 60-day ultimatum for all expats in the country to sort out their paperwork or risk being deported.

The Ministry of Interior has also started a registration and verification exercise to create a single digital record to help with immigration audits and to identify undocumented workers.

The government says it wants to boost the employment of Kenyans and to ensure that expats working there are not taking jobs that their citizens can do.

There are currently 34,000 registered expats with work permits and police believe there are many thousands more who are not registered. The country is a popular destination for volunteers, aid workers and NGO organisations with expats from the UK, Europe and North America working in a range of sectors including conservation, media, maternal health and human rights.

The move by Kenya follows in the steps of its neighbour Tanzania, which has announced restrictions on work permits for expats working for local employers.

Kuwait cannot replace all of its expats

A shortage of potential Kuwaiti employees means the country cannot replace all of its expat employees in the public sector, the head of the civil services commission has warned.

Ahmad Jassar told MPs there are 78,317 expats working in the government sector and they are mainly in the health and education ministries. He said: “Around 76% of the foreign workers are in the public sector and we have informed the committee regularly that replacement is not possible for the time being.”

Around 70% of Kuwait’s population are foreigners, and the country has pushed for a Kuwaitisation programme to reduce its reliance on expat workers.

He added that there are not enough qualified Kuwaitis currently to replace the expats working in the public sector and it would be highly difficult to replace them. Currently, some 77% of all Kuwaitis are employed in the public sector – around 345,000 people – who are attracted to the job security and less pressure, with short working hours and longer holidays.

The most expensive destinations for expats

The most expensive destination for expats to move to is Dubai, followed by Auckland, according to Nestpick, a portal offering furnished apartments. The costs facing expats include visa fees, rent as well as telephone, food and transport for the first month.

A move to Dubai will cost $6,068 (£4,571) while for Auckland the costs are $5,713 (£4,304).

A spokesman for the firm said that the cost of living is a big factor for expats wanting to move overseas with the first month always having additional costs. He added: “Our index will serve as an indicator of how expensive or affordable many of the most popular working destinations around the world are. It will help those seeking opportunities overseas to make a smart decision.”

The cost of living index looked at 80 potential destinations with the most expensive destination in terms of rent, putting San Francisco in first place as there is a shortage of quality homes and expats may need to fork out $3,860 (£2,908) every month.

This is followed by New York at $2,853, Hong Kong at $2,354 and London at $2,272 followed by Sydney at $2,142.

Affordable schools welcomed in Abu Dhabi

A new programme to create affordable international schools is being rolled out in Abu Dhabi and the move has been welcomed by parents wanting top quality education at affordable prices. The aim is to encourage expat families to remain in the country and educate their children there as well.

The schools are a collaboration between private and public sectors with annual fees that range from Dh 20,000 (£4,100/$5,445) to Dh 30,000 (£6,155/$8,168). That is considerably less than private schools are charging currently in the emirate.

The new school model will be launched in September at the beginning of the academic year. The executive director of the Al Qasimi Foundation which is helping to organise the rollout, Natasha Ridge, said that there’s a real need from parents for lower private school fees.

She explained: “Our research has found that Asian expats could be paying between 50% and 60% of their take-home salary on private school fees where Western expats will pay only 10% towards their fees. There’s a larger burden in UAE on lower income earners and their employers often don’t provide subsidies for schools whereas Western expats the schooling is often part of the package.”

British expats scramble to beat Brexit deadline

According to a report in the Financial Times, there’s a scramble of Brits aiming to retire to the European Union before the transition period starts next March.

They quote research from Blevins Franks, who say that there are significant numbers of people speaking with them who want to be living in the European Union by the end of this year.

The firm’s director, Jason Porter, explained: “There is an agreement in place between the 27 EU members and the UK for legal residency, healthcare and the UK state pension for the transitional period which runs to December 31, 2020.”

The report also quotes personal finance analyst Sarah Coles from Hargreaves Lansdown, who says expats looking to head overseas should be looking to exchange money with currency specialists rather than with a bank because currencies are currently volatile. The UK government has a helpful website for British expats thinking of moving overseas.

Meanwhile, representatives from the European Union’s 27 member states say they don’t want to enforce special residency arrangements on British nationals living in their countries after Brexit.

The officials say they want a simple and smooth approach to residency with those Brits who move to EU member states before Brexit will be granted the same rights to those expats living there currently.

Thousands of expats deported from Bahrain

Bahrain has revealed that it has deported 5,294 expats over the past three years for breaching the country’s labour laws.

The news was followed by Kuwait revealing it has deported more than 8,000 expats since January – that’s an average of 59 every day – for violating laws on labour and residency which makes them illegal migrants in the country.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia also revealed that they’ve undertaken an unprecedented crackdown on expats there. In the latest figures, the Kingdom arrested more than 1.13 million expats over the last six months for violating residency and labour laws.

In other news…

Indonesia has revealed that it is cutting the red tape that prevents employers from hiring expats. The legal process has now been made easier for obtaining a work permit with the move to boost Indonesia’s foreign investment.

A boost in the recruitment of female teachers in Kuwait has led the Ministry of Education telling Parliament that the plan to replace expat teachers with Kuwaitis is now ‘more realistic than ever before’. Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that expat doctors working in Kuwait will have their contracts terminated when they reach the age of 75.

Expats in Qatar could be granted permanent residency after lawmakers approved a draft law which could grant residency to those who are providing valuable services. The new law will also extend citizenship to the children of Qatari women were married to non-Qataris. Permanent residency would enable access to free state education and health care and the right to buy property.

Oman has announced that it is going to extend its ban on the hiring of expats by another six months. The government says the move will create more job opportunities for Omanis. The ban extends to hiring expats in 10 industries including insurance, marketing, media and information technology. The ban does not extend to the replacing of existing expats working in Oman’s private sector.

According to the website of Dr Ruth Usemm, the children of expats are four times more likely to earn a degree when compared to those who haven’t lived overseas. Dr Useem coined the term ‘Third Culture Kids’ and says that 40% of these children will go on to earn advanced degrees, compared with the average of 5%.

Expats living in the UAE are being targeted by Oman in a big tourism push to attract them to the Gulf state.

Efforts by the Swiss Abroad community to enjoy better access to banking services in Switzerland have been rebuffed by the country’s House of Representatives. Many Swiss expats need a Swiss bank account for their health insurance and old-age pensions and also for managing any property they hold. However, some MPs criticise the motion as ludicrous and said it was up to banks to improve access.

The UAE has announced that the number of countries that expats come from without having to undertake the country’s driving test for a licence has been extended with another 13 countries added to the list. The new entrants include Austria, China, Denmark and Poland. The total list of exempted countries now reaches 30 including the US and UK.


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