In many ways the “classic” view of an expat is the professional and/or managerial male, travelling round the world, often with his family in tow. However a number of recent studies have challenged this viewpoint, suggesting that the entire expat landscape is shifting.
Let’s take permanency as an example. Natwest found in 2008 that 67% of expats considered themselves “lifers” – people more than happy to travel from one expat destination to another – as required by employers – only returning “home” to retire or visit family.
These days however it is an entirely different story; this year that figure has dropped as low as 28%. That means that overall 39% of expats have shifted from a permanent expat lifestyle to a temporary one.
This shift in the expat community is likely as a result of changing attitudes from employers about their requirements. From the perspective of the expats themselves, things also seem to be shifting. Perhaps moving semi-permanently to a new country is too much of a commitment; maybe increasing expats are seeing short-term expat life as an exciting and rejuvenating way to travel the world, learn new languages and experience new cultures.
With such an “international” outlook being ever more valuable to global corporations there is an argument which suggests that such individuals could significantly improve their future employment prospects by gaining experience on a global scale.
These days, “temporary” expats account for fully 40% of the total workforce responding to Natwest’s survey.
The countries drawing expats also represent a shift in the expat community. These days the growth economies attracting workers are most commonly found in the Far East, with countries like China, Singapore and Hong Kong attracting a strong global workforce.
It is interesting to note that alongside, many expats relocating to such countries enjoy an increase in disposable income. Fully 83% of expats now living in Singapore enjoy stronger financial benefits than they enjoyed at home, for example.
This is in contrast to expats in European countries, who are far more likely to express concerns over their financial future.
Possibly the most notable change of all however isn’t the countries we’re moving to or how long we’re relocating for, but the demographics of the expat community.
The data suggests that not only is the expat community getting ever younger, but that the gender gap is closing rapidly. In the most recent study 27% of expats were aged between 25 and 35, while the proportion of female expats has increased from 33% in 2011 up to 46% last year.
In stark contrast to the classic view of expat life, it now seems that you’re just as likely to come across a young female professional working temporarily in Singapore as you are a more mature gentleman with family in tow in for the long haul.