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11 Reasons the Expat Life Is Not What It Used to Be

by Jeanne Kim Mar 5, 2015

There are an estimated 5 to 7 million Americans living abroad — even the IRS can’t track down exact numbers — across more than 150 countries.

In 2010, 57% of all expatriates chose to move overseas to secure better career opportunities and financial security. Then there were those just seeking some adventure, or a more easy-going life.

If you’re looking to go abroad for the first time or are an experienced expat looking to relocate, consider these new trends from Cigna and HSBC studies.

1. Assignments have gotten shorter.

More than a third of expats stayed on just 2-3 year assignments in 2013. In 2001, more expats stayed overseas indefinitely than any other period. This is a good trend for those not interested in long-term commitments in China or the Swiss Alps; not such a good trend for those who are.

2. Good news if you’re in the energy and mining industry (not so great if you’re in financial services or manufacturing).

Energy, mining and utilities made up 20 percent of jobs among expats surveyed in 2013, up by 14 percent since 2001. Meanwhile, the financial services and manufacturing industries are down 8 percent and 14 percent respectively.

3. Expats use their phones less for information.

About 70 percent of expats use their laptops to access the internet on assignment while only 10 percent access information on their cellphones. According to a Pew study, 21 percent of Americans living at home use their phones to access online information.

4. More expats are being assigned to the Middle East.

Despite unemployment, slow economic growth, and political instability in the Middle East and North Africa, 23 percent of all expats were assigned there in 2013, up from just 6 percent in 2001. There’s also been a drop in the proportion of expats who go to Europe — from 43 percent in 2001 to 22 percent in 2013.

5. More people from Asian countries are becoming expats.

About 13 percent of all expats come from Asian countries, up from just 5 percent in 2001. In 2001, 63 percent of all expats hailed from North America. In 2013 that number was down to 49 percent. About 42 percent of those expats were from the United States.

6. Employers are asking people to go abroad more and more.

About 42 percent surveyed said their employers have expats in 50 or more countries, up from just 14 percent in 2001. In other words, companies are expanding and more often sending their employees to other parts of the world.

7. Fewer females are going abroad compared to males…sort of.

The ratio of male to female expatriates in 2013 was 80 percent to 20 percent, compared with 75 percent to 25 percent in 2001. While there are fewer women abroad, younger women are more frequently going abroad these days than their male counterparts. So this stat may change soon. Women comprised more than half of 2013 expats younger than 25 years, while men comprised the majority of those 25 years and older. And women are more likely than men to be expats in Australia (51 percent), China,(61 percent), France (60 percent), India (51 percent), Singapore (55 percent), the UK (66 percent), and the United States (61 percent). In Hong Kong, it’s 50-50.

8. For a better social life, go to Asia.

In Asia, expats generally agree that they enjoy a more active social life since relocating (35 percent), compared with the global average of 26 percent. The sunshine and beaches don’t hurt. Countries with metropolitan cities, like Thailand, Malaysia and China, are among the best in Asia for social butterflies, with 59 percent, 46 percent and 44 percent of expats, respectively, saying they have better social lives than before.

9. New Zealand is the best place to take your kids.

New Zealand ranks first in quality of life for expat children. Singapore, Spain, the UAE, and Germany round out the top-five countries. About 48 percent of New Zealand expat parents say they feel their children are generally more confident and well-rounded than before, compared to about 33 percent of expat parents who say that in other countries.

10. For the cheap life, go to Southeast Asia.

From spending on groceries to accommodation, the top five least expensive countries include Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, India and Vietnam, three of which are in Southeast Asia. In European countries like Switzerland, the cost of living is so high that 43 percent of expats are looking to leave.

11. Half of expats look forward to doing it again!

While 13 percent of expats surveyed in 2013 said they wouldn’t go on another assignment and 37 percent weren’t sure, 50 percent of expats surveyed in 2013 said they couldn’t wait to go abroad again.

By Jeanne Kim, GlobalPost
This article is syndicated from GlobalPost.

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