Anywhere but Qatar, survey of expats shows

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
OFW Journalism Consortium

MANILA—CANADA or bust, majority of expatriates surveyed in 26 countries revealed.

An international bank’s survey of 26 countries showed that Canada is the best place for expatriates to settle in.

While the Philippines hosts expats of multinational companies, it was excluded in the survey. Still, except for Vietnam and Mexico, all the countries included were destinations for migrant Filipino workers.

Also, the countries surveyed by HSBC Bank International (see Table 1) have been the source of some US$14.512 billion in overseas Filipino remittances in 2008, according to data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

The “Expat Experience” segment of the second Expat Explorer Survey, commissioned by HSBC Bank International, showed that Canada is the best place for expats to go in terms of accommodation.

Canada was also their second-best choice in terms of setting up utilities, making friends who are nationals of the host country, family life, and doing hobbies.

Canada is a destination country of an estimated 462,935 Filipinos, including an overwhelming 410,626 Filipinos who are now permanent residents there, according to 2007 stock estimates from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Australia follows as second-best, with Thailand, Singapore, Bahrain, South Africa, France, the United States of America, Spain, and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the top ten.

The survey said it looked at 23 social and economic criteria showing where there is the best quality of life for expatriates.

HSBC defines an “expat” or “expatriate” as somebody “over the age of 18 years old and currently living away from their country of origin”.

Colloquially, Filipinos refer to expats as those who are overseas as professionals and as highly-skilled workers.

The bank said its Expat Explorer’s Survey had 3,100 expats as respondents when it was administered from February to April 2009. It added that the survey had a sample size of 30 or more respondents from each of the 26 countries surveyed. The survey, however, did not indicate the nationalities of expat respondents, as well as their occupations in the host country and their immigration status.

The surprise package of the 26 countries surveyed was the small island country of Bahrain, a nation with an over-727,000 population and with an estimated number of 44,703 Filipinos (including 40,818 temporary migrants or overseas workers).

Bahrain ranked first in four of the 23 criteria of the survey: organizing one’s healthcare, joining local community groups, working hours, and social life.

The US, where there are an estimated 2.8 million Filipinos of which nearly 90 percent are permanent residents (2.5 million), had an overall rank of eight. While it topped three criteria –learning the local language, clothing, and household goods, the US had its worst rankings in criteria such as “social life” (22nd) and “organizing one’s healthcare” (24th).

Australia, second over-all, was chosen by many expats surveyed as the best place for “organizing finances.”

Another Asia-Pacific country, Thailand, topped two indicators: “finding somewhere to live” and “making friends”.

Some 250,347 Filipinos are recorded to work and live in Australia while Thailand hosts an estimated 20,780 Filipinos, with nearly half of that number or 14,121, are working on a temporary contract.

Meanwhile, the survey’s “Expat Economics” segment showed that the Russian Federation, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong SAR, and the United Arab Emirates are the top-ranked countries.

These countries host nearly two million Filipinos, majority of who are temporary migrants or overseas workers.

This segment studied four factors surrounding the economic conditions of expats: annual income in excess of US$0.2 million; a monthly disposable income in excess of US$3,000; an increase in savings while living/working abroad; and, having at least two luxury items in the country they live in.

Saudi Arabia ranked first for the criterion “increased savings,” while Bahrain topped the criteria “luxuries.” Japan ranked first in terms of “income,” while Qatar topped the criterion “disposable income”.

The Expat Economics survey segment also showed that 68 percent of expats are saving and investing more since they moved away from their home country. For expats with annual incomes below US$60,000 and US$0.2 million or more, most of them save and invest in banks.

Some 63 percent of the respondents said the credit crunch as a result of the global economic crisis had changed their attitude to spending. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they have been trying to save on a day-to-day basis, while some 60 percent of respondents have cut down on luxuries.

If a 2005 survey by the Asian Development Bank on overseas Filipinos’ remittances is to be believed, Filipinos abroad remit home an average of US$340 monthly to families back home.

OFW Journalism Consortium