Expat Explorer, the expat survey conducted by HSBC expat, is in its fifth year of operation. This year, the largest global survey of expats, depicts the impact of the economic downturn on the global expat market.
The Middle East continues to draw financially minded expats, however, figures demonstrate that compared to Europe, those in the Middle East are looking to leave soon. The Middle Eastern market for expats seems to be dominated by young professionals aiming to take advantage of the higher income, while never looking to settle permanently. Approximately one third of expats in Saudi Arabia (34%), Qatar (30%) and Oman (29%) are actively looking to leave the country, either to another placement or simply to return to their home country. This is a high proportion compared to the the one third (13%) of expats globally that are looking to relocate. The survey states that the high percentage is not due to unfavourable conditions. Rather expats in the Middle East have been shown to retain a higher affiliation for their home country, only ever intending to move to the Middle East for a set period of time.
European expats have shown clear dissatisfaction at the current economic situation, with expats based in Spain demonstrating a high dissatisfaction rate (92%). However, this hasn’t led to an increase in the number of expats wanting to leave the country. Despite this high level of dissatisfaction at the economic situation, the number of expats in Spain that expressed an immediate desire to leave the country was zero. Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat, gives a reason for this, stating, “This may be explained further by the high number of expat retirees in the region who have made long term ties and therefore will remain in the country.”
The survey results demonstrate that the economic downturn has affected expatriates’ decisions on whether to stay or leave their respective host country. The survey shows Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong, top the charts in various factors such as earning levels, disposable income and ability to accumulate luxuries. Singapore ranks highest in the survey overall, with the highest proportion of wealthy expats. Nearly half (43%) of expats in Singapore earn over US $250,000 per annum, compared to the global amount of 7%.
The survey therefore demonstrates that Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries provide higher incomes, with the ability to bestow their expat workers with a standard of living unattainable in their home country. Despite this, in the case of Middle Eastern countries, expats never seem to be looking to relocate there permanently. In the case of European countries however, expats are prepared to weather the economic downturn in order to stay.