COVID-19 and A Shift in Priorities for Those Working Abroad

COVID-19 has led to a fundamental shift in values for people across the world as we adapt to lockdowns, travel restrictions, and remote working and schooling.

This is equally true for those living and working abroad, even though they may be more used to spending long periods of time away from family and friends and keeping in touch with loved ones via Zoom or Skype.

We recently worked on a piece of global research with our clients at Allianz Care, the international health brand of Allianz Partners, to find out how this community has been impacted by the pandemic, who the ‘expat’ of 2020 is and what challenges they’re facing. The research was carried out by Ipsos MRBI amongst people living and working in the UK, France, Canada, UAE and Singapore, having been born and educated elsewhere.

The research found that the future plans of almost two-thirds (62%) of expats has been impacted as a result of COVID-19. Of those, 53% say that health and wellbeing is now a greater priority for them and 48% say that family is a bigger priority now than it was before COVID-19. The majority (73%) say that the health and wellbeing of their family is now a crucial consideration in deciding whether to stay abroad or move back home.

Better quality of life and work/life balance are key for those living and working abroad in 2020

When it comes to the reasons for originally moving abroad, while almost half (49%) say financial gain is a primary driver for moving abroad, it’s the pursuit of a better quality of life, health and wellbeing that’s key for the majority. 46% moved abroad for personal development, while 40% made the move in search of a better work/life balance.

In fact, the pursuit of a good work/life balance is a key influencing factor for 70% of expats in terms of deciding whether to stay abroad or move home. Among that number, three in five respondents (60%) say they have a better work/life balance living abroad than they had at home with that figure rising to 72% in Canada and 71% in the UAE. However, over a quarter (26%) of those living in Singapore found the work-life balance to be worse there.

Most (71%) of those surveyed had moved abroad with their family, with half (51%) of all respondents living in their new country with their children. The results are largely positive, with nearly two-thirds (65%) saying that living abroad has had a positive impact on their family’s overall health. 22% put this down to being able to achieve a better quality of life (22%) while 21% said it was due to the ability to access to better health and wellbeing services (21%).

From expat to global citizen

While the term ‘expat’ is still used to describe people living and working in a country other than their native one in 2020, it is no longer relevant in many markets where these people prefer to identify as ‘global citizens’, ‘immigrants’ and ‘international workers’, with major disparities from country-to-country.

In the UAE, a region traditionally associated with ‘expats’, the term is still widely used by more than three-quarters of people in this category (76%). But that figure falls to 35% in Singapore, under a quarter in the UK (24%) and France (23%) and just 11% in Canada. In these countries, the term ‘global citizen’ is more widely used today, at 48% in the UK, 33% in France, 29% in Singapore and 26% in Canada.

‘Expats’ and ‘global citizens’ reflect on the research findings

To mark the launch of this research, we developed a short video featuring a number of ‘expats’ and ‘global citizens’ from different backgrounds, to find out whether the findings reflected their own experience of living and working abroad, having relocated either on their own, with a partner or with children in tow.