So how long’s a piece of string? Whatever length you want to make it. Cute, and obvious. But the answer neatly illustrates why trying to explain the reasons expats choose to live and work anywhere but in their home countries is a rather futile question in the first place.
The truth is expats live and work overseas for a whole variety of reasons, not simplistically just for the higher salary, as is often cited. Having said that, salary is an important factor for many. But so is quality of life, with less stress and a better work/home life balance major considerations.
The Middle East, for example, has been a favoured expat destination for decades. However, other countries have risen to the fore in recent times, too, as evidenced by the findings of numerous annual surveys. Switzerland, Singapore and China often figure strongly in these, appearing consistently towards the top of the rankings across a whole variety of indicators.
Tax-free salary packages
When it comes to living the high life, often bolstered by tax-free salary packages and credit card and other spending, few areas of the world can compete with the Persian Gulf countries which make up the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the Expat Arrivals website, a huge number of expats have relocated to the Middle East because of the promise of tax-free salary packages, exciting and dynamic job markets and the promise of a high quality of life and big savings. After crunching the numbers, the website says:
98% of expats in Saudi Arabia claim they have more disposable income than they ever did back home; while 94% say the same thing about Qatar and 87% of the UAE.
92% of expats in Qatar say they save more money at the end of every month than they did back home; while expats in Saudi Arabia (89%), Bahrain (88%) and the UAE (80%) are in strong agreement with this idea.
94% of expats in the UAE say they pay less tax than in their country of origin – and the figure is above 85% for all the other GCC nations as well.
Oil, gas and mining
Expats are involved in a whole range of sectors, from engineering and sales and marketing to healthcare and administration. The most popular jobs are accountant, manager, engineer, executive, coordinator, civil engineer, senior executive, director, salesperson, mechanical engineer, analyst and junior executive.
The website says, “By far and away, the majority of expats working in the Middle East are employed in the private sector (83%), by large multinational companies (27%) or large local companies (21%). The backbone of the Gulf region’s wealth is its energy resources, and so unsurprisingly most expat jobs will be in some way related to the oil, gas or mining industries.”
But it’s not all plain sailing for expat communities, especially given the rise almost everywhere of living costs. Thus expats in Singapore, for example, complain salaries now don’t keep pace with the cost of living despite eight out of 10 earning more than they did when back home.
The piece of string has suddenly got a whole lot shorter for some! The Expat Arrivals website can be found here.