Expat Focus International News Update October 2017

Singapore Tops HSBC Expat Explorer Survey

Singapore has topped the HSBC Expat Explorer survey for 2017, with Norway just being edged out.

HSBC questioned 27,500 expats around the world and found that Singapore offered more for the third consecutive year. Expats living there say offers the best quality of life and that it’s a safe place with well-paid work.However, New Zealand came top in the experience category, with expats saying it’s easy to make friends in the country, and that it’s a great place to set up and feel safe. Switzerland topped the economic rankings, while Sweden was pipped to the post in the family category by the Netherlands, which expats consider a great place to raise and educate children.

Germany came fourth overall, followed by the Netherlands, Canada and Australia. The top 10 includes Sweden, Austria and the United Arab Emirates.

In terms of popular expat destinations, the United States came 27th and the UK 35th.

The HSBC report states that expats are not being deterred by global circumstances. Researchers explain: “Expats are widening their horizons, embracing new challenges and new opportunities while achieving goals with great commitment and reward than ever before.”

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Global Elites

Critics of the so-called global elite say that these people are the citizens of nowhere. However, a report from Anglia Ruskin University says that mobile professionals have a strong sense of community and identity which transcends ethnicity and nationality. The findings show that many globally mobile professionals develop a shared sense of identity in the location they call home.

The report, published in the Human Relations Journal, described interviews with a wide range of middle-class expats who work for multinational employees in Amsterdam. The researchers say the expats form strong bonds with fellow professionals from around the world, as well as close attachment to Amsterdam as their home. A spokeswoman for the researchers said that expats are not just seeking career opportunities and freedom for moving across borders, but also want to live in diverse, open places where they can feel like engaged citizens, regardless of nationality.

Wellbeing Of Expat Dependents

Employers who send employees with dependents overseas need to consider offering support to families during their stay abroad, says the Health Insurance Group. Research has revealed that moving home during childhood can, later in life, damage well-being as well as physical and mental health.

Researchers followed 1.4 million Danish children from childhood into adulthood and found those who moved home when they were children, and those who moved frequently in early adolescence, were at most risk. The Health Insurance Group says employers could mitigate risks by looking at preventative measures to help support physical and mental wellbeing whenever dependents move and when they return from an overseas assignment.

A spokeswoman for the firm said that while expat assignments offered excellent opportunities to live and see another country, there is still a need for proper support and care so that the experiences are positive for the expat and their dependents. She added: “Looking after dependents is as important for an assignment to be successful as is looking after the employee.”

Expats Have Worse Financial And Physical Wellbeing

Research from insurer Cigna has revealed that those who work overseas perceive their own and their families’ physical, social and financial wellbeing to be worse when compared to individuals living in their home country. The president of Cigna’s international markets, Jason Sadler, said expats working overseas worry about the consequences of illness for themselves and their family, which is compounded by the gap in the provision of health benefits from employers. He added: “There is a clear need for employers to pay attention to the wellbeing and health of globally mobile employees and this should also cover employees interacting with families and the local community. “

Best Life Experience For Expats In Germany

In contrast to the HSBC survey reported on above, another survey has found that the best life experiences for expats are found in Germany, closely followed by France and Denmark. The findings come from the Quality of Nationality Index (QNI), published by British immigration consultancy Henley & Partners.

The firm says the QNI is the world’s only measure of nationality that is objective. It utilises information from the World Bank, the Institute for Economics and Peace and the International Air Transport Association.

While Germany ranked 82.7 percent, France and Denmark tied for second place with 82.4 percent. In third place is Iceland with 81.3 percent, while the bottom country is Afghanistan with 14.6 percent. The UK is currently in 12th place, but those who compile the statistics say this will probably fall after Brexit. The US is in 29th position.

This survey also looks at which country has the most powerful passport; again, Germany is in first place. In second place is Sweden, Finland is third, Spain is fourth and Italy is fifth. The UK’s passport is rated as the seventh most powerful in the world, while the US is in 13th place.

Finland Popular With Expat Families

For the second year running, Finland has been ranked as the best country in the world for expat families by the InterNations platform. Expats say they appreciate the low cost and wide availability of childcare and education as well as the high quality of that education. The annual Expat Insider survey says: “72 percent of those who responded with children think the education system is excellent – compared to the world average of 26 percent.”

Other Nordic countries also scored well for health and wellbeing, but expats found that the local people could be distant and that learning the language could be difficult. In Finland, for example, 85 percent of expats say the language is hard for them to pick up. However, expats enjoy short working weeks and a quality work/life balance in Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Call For Expat Labour Court In Kuwait

There’s a growing call for a Labour Court to be introduced in Kuwait, in a bid to tackle growing abuse and visa trading. Construction workers are particularly at risk, with employers asking for large sums to renew residency permits. One worker told local media his employer does not adhere to the new rules that prevent workers from working outside at noon during summer months.

The call is being backed by Dr Salah Bouresli, head of Kuwait’s Contracting Companies Union. He says there are many draft laws looking to bring about reform of the country’s labour market. However, he fears the laws will never be passed. Kuwait’s Human Rights Society is also stressing that a Labour Court would also help punish poor employers and improve labour relations in the country.

Meanwhile, Kuwait has also announced that it will examine expat’s degrees and qualifications when it comes to their renewing their residency visas. From 1 November, all expats will be required to provide their original degree along with other documents to renew their residency visa.

Clampdown In Cambodia

The Cambodian government has revealed that it’s about to clamp down on business visa extensions used by long-stay expats there. The country’s new regulations will also affect retiree expats and others wanting to earn cash online or volunteer for work. The government has published the criteria for new immigration rules, and stated that the crackdown is happening for several reasons, including the number of expats working there who are not paying tax on their earnings.

Kuwait Replaces Expat Teachers

Kuwait has announced that it will boost the number of teaching jobs for its citizens by replacing all expat teachers currently working in the country’s schools and universities. The scheme will focus on teachers working on scientific subjects, 75 percent of whom will be replaced by Kuwaitis.
The announcement was made by the country’s Civil Service Commission. There’s currently no timeline for introducing the new criteria and no indication about how Kuwait will achieve this goal.

Bad News For Saudi Expat Drivers

While the move by the Saudi government to allow women to drive vehicles has been widely welcomed, it isn’t all good news for expats there. This is because there are 1.4 million expat ‘house drivers’ – or chauffeurs – working in the country, who account for 58 percent of all household foreign workers, according to one Saudi newspaper.

Now with more women getting behind the wheel, it is expected that many of these expat domestic drivers will no longer be required. The move has been praised by the Saudi Economic Association, who say the kingdom could save around SR20 billion (£4/$5.3bn) every year by not employing expat drivers. The association says that with no need for expat driver wages, there will be no need for employers to pay work permits and iqama (residence permit) fees either.

Expat Engineers No Longer Welcome

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has announced that expat engineers who have fewer than five years of experience will no longer be given work in the kingdom. The ban on these expat engineers begins on 1 January, and has been confirmed by the Saudi Council of Engineers.

Those engineering firms working on urgent projects have been given a three-month deadline for terminating the contracts of more novice expat engineers and applying to recruit replacements. The move will also see expat engineers undertaking a professional test and a personal interview before being hired.

Oman Unveils New Online Work Visa

Oman’s Ministry of Manpower says expats will be able to renew and obtain their work visas online when a new system is put in place over the next two years. The move will also see employers no longer having to trek between various departments to gain clearances before hiring an expat employee.

The country’s Ministry of Health has also spoken about which expat jobs will now be taken by Omani locals. These jobs include dentists, opticians, physiotherapists as well as pharmacists and assistant pharmacists. The list also includes x-ray technicians and laboratory technicians, and could see 25,000 jobs being affected. The new rules for employing Omanis in health will begin in December.

Appeal For Expat Rights

The rights of EU expats in the UK as well as British expats living in the European Union are the focus of an appeal launched by the UK’s trade unions and business owners. They are appealing for both sides in Brexit negotiations to resolve the issue of working rights as soon as possible.
The Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress says expats have been caught up in a game of ‘human poker’ and their status post-Brexit needs to be resolved swiftly in what has been described as an ‘intolerable situation.’

In Other News…

Expat employers in Malaysia can now submit their 2018 needs for expat employees, says the country’s Expatriate Services Division. The projections must be approved before work permits are issued to expats.

A lesbian British expat living in Hong Kong has won a landmark appeal against Hong Kong’s Immigration Department in a bid to secure a spousal visa for her partner. The legal ruling could help pave the way for other LGBTQ partners to join their loved ones in the city. Hong Kong does not officially recognise same-sex unions, but the Court of Appeal says the woman, only identified as QT, can access a dependent’s visa.

The latest figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics reveal that Bulgarian and Romanian expats are being increasingly drawn to the UK; the migrants from the countries are also much younger than those from other countries. At the end of 2016, there were 413,000 Romanian and Bulgarian citizens living in UK, compared to 6,200 British citizens living in their countries.

Thailand has unveiled a smart phone that enables expats to apply for work permits and have them approved. However, expats will still need to visit work permit centres to complete the procedure.

Expats in Amsterdam are being blamed by one local broadcaster for pushing up rents as well as leaving ‘piles of rubbish on pavements, and screaming Americans in the garden’. The broadcaster suggested that the 77,000 expats working in the city including British bankers, cheap Eastern European workers and Asian technocrats were being responsible for the problems.

MPs in Kuwait have floated a plan to ban expats owning more than one car in the country. The ban will also extend to GCC nationals, with the aim of reducing the current number of 1.9 million vehicles using the country’s roads, which were designed to carry 1.2 million vehicles.


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