Working expats around the world are well educated and most frequently work in the fields of education, IT, and finance.
A good compensation will remain more relevant than soft factors in a future working environment.
Why do expats move abroad? According to the Expat Insider 2021 survey by InterNations, 47% of working expats name their career as the most important reason for relocating to another country. Most of them found a job on their own (17%), were recruited internationally (15%), or were sent by their employer (13%). Just 2% moved abroad to start their own business.
Here’s expats all around the world shared what it is really like to work abroad and described their working conditions. They also provided insights into how new working arrangements (e.g., remote work) are changing their working life and what they would like to see in the future.
Expats Working Abroad Are Well Educated
Expats working abroad are on average 43.1 years old, and the gender ratio is a fairly even split between male (53%) and female (46%) expats. Overall, they are well educated, with four in five working expats either holding a postgraduate degree / master’s degree (47%) or a bachelor’s degree (33%). Another 8% have a PhD, followed by one in twenty with qualifications from commercial / technical / vocational training (5%). Just 5% have only graduated high school, and 1% have no degree at all.
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When it comes to their current employment situation, 30% are in a senior / specialist position, followed by lower / middle management (17%) and top managers / executives (13%). More than one in five (11%) are self-employed / a freelancer, 9% are teachers / professors, and 7% each either work in entry-level jobs or have their own business.
Education, IT, and Finance Are the Most Common Fields of Work
The most common fields expats work in are education (12%), IT (11%), and finance (8%). Other frequently mentioned fields of work include manufacturing & engineering (7%), healthcare (6%), and advertising, marketing & communication (5%).
About one-third of working expats (33%) have a gross yearly income ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 USD. Four in nine (44%) make 50,000 USD or less, while 23% make more than 100,000 USD.
Lower Working Hours and a Higher Satisfaction with their Work-Life-Balance
While the vast majority of expats works full time (82%), the share has slightly decreased by four percentage points since 2015 (86%).
The changes in the way they work become even clearer when it comes to expats’ working hours: In 2015, the average number of working hours per week — for full-time and part-time workers combined — was 42 hours; in 2021 it is just 39.9 hours. This seems to have an impact on personal satisfaction: 70% of working expats are happy with their working hours in 2021 (vs. 64% in 2015), and 68% rate their work-life-balance positively (vs. 63% in 2015).
While the satisfaction with working hours and work-life balance has slightly increased since 2015, expats are less happy with their local career opportunities: less than half the working expats (49%) are satisfied with this factor in 2021, compared to 60% in 2015. On the other hand, expats rate their job security better now, with 67% saying they are happy with this factor (vs. 60% in 2015). Overall, 73% are happy with their job in general, which is 5 percentage points more than in 2015 (68%).
Remote Work Is on the Rise
One aspect of New Work is already an everyday occurrence for many working expats: close to four in five (78%) are able to work remotely in 2021. However, while 62% say that they can work remotely, 16% add that they can work remotely but usually prefer not to. Another 16% are unable to work remotely due to the nature of their job, and only 6% cannot work remotely because their employer does not allow it. Overall, 65% enjoy working remotely: more than a quarter (28%) even like it very much, while just 3% do not like it at all.
Close to two in five working expats (39%) work fully remotely, while the second-biggest share (18%) works remotely for more than 15 days per month. This figure is followed by two to five days (14%), one day or less (12%), and six to ten days (10%).
The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on the remote work policies for expat employees: nearly three in ten (28%) are now able to work remotely more often than before, while another 20% say that remote work has been newly introduced and is here to stay for them. For around one quarter (26%) their employer’s remote work policies have not changed in the long run, while another 26% do not know yet what their employer will decide in the post-pandemic future.
What Working Expats Value Now and What They Envision in the Future
When asked what they like best about their current job, working expats most frequently mention the opportunity to work remotely / from home (32%), a good work-life balance (32%), and flexible working hours (29%).
“What working expats enjoy about the job they have is not necessarily what they envision for their future career. Businesses all around the world will have to offer more within the context of New Work, such as room for creativity. But this is not everything expats ask for. Despite a growing desire for self-fulfillment and personal development, hard factors such as a good salary remain extremely important for expats in a business context.” Malte Zeeck, InterNations Founder and Co-CEO told Vietnam Insider.
In fact, the top 3 aspects that would be especially important to expats in an ideal work environment are a good compensation and/or good benefits (54%), a good work-life balance (49%), and creative/interesting tasks (29%). At the moment, just 28% are happy with their compensation and/or benefits, and only 21% benefit from having creative/interesting tasks at work, according to the Expat Insider 2021 survey by InterNations.