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Expats and health insurance: Opportunities for Brokers

Global research suggests migration has been rising sharply in recent decades, with numbers moving for work showing a significant increase. As baby-boomers retire and populations age, many countries are relying on imported labour to fill a skills shortage.

The impact of the economic crisis, however, has created an employment lull in even the most international hubs. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the countries first hit by the recession, such as the UK, Ireland and Spain, have seen a fall in numbers of newly arrived expatriate workers.

Some nations, including the Czech Republic and Japan, have even put in place new policies to encourage immigrants without jobs to return home.

Looking east

Despite the gloomy outlook in many western nations, some parts of the world are enjoying a new flush of wealth as well-off expats move east. Conducted by banking firm HSBC, the International Expat Explorer Survey 2009, found that Asia is home to some of the richest foreign workers in the world.

Just under a third (30 per cent) of Russia-based expatriates earn more than $250,000 (£157,000) a year, followed by Hong Kong (27 per cent) and Japan (26 per cent). Their peers in Australia and Belgium, meanwhile, are the poorest, with 63 and 61 per cent respectively being paid under $100,000.

While being the world’s highest-earning expats, workers in Asia are also showing more caution about their finances, with 54 per cent in Japan cutting back on luxuries such as holidays and leisure activities.

Saving money

While some may move overseas for a more leisurely lifestyle, the majority of respondents to the same survey reported they had managed to cut back on spending while living abroad. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) said they had exercised more control over their finances by saving and investing more than they had in their home country.

Settling into an expatriate life in Saudi Arabia, Russia and Qatar may be particularly attractive to people currently residing in expensive cities, such as London and Paris, as 90 per cent or more migrants living in these destinations are seeing their savings grow.

Emerging markets

These three nations also top HSBC’s ranking of economies experiencing fast growth. Other Middle Eastern states make up the rest of the highest ranking emerging markets, with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain taking fourth and fifth place respectively. Out of more established economies, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan are beating Switzerland, the US and the UK in the league table.

While North America has the largest immigrant population, at around 40 million, it is Qatar that has the most migrants in terms of population percentage. More than four in five of those living in the emirate hail from other countries.

Quality of life

But money isn’t the only driver behind migration and many move to offer themselves and their families a better lifestyle. Published by the United Nations, the 2009 Human Development Report revealed that Norway, Australia and Iceland are the best places in the world to live. The index measures three aspects of living, including

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