Ipsos research

Health, wellbeing and family all move up the priority list for those working abroad post-COVID

July 22, 2020

The impact of COVID-19 has led to a shift in values for many in the expat community, with 62% saying their future plans have been impacted as a result of the pandemic. Of those, 53% claim 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. That’s according to new research conducted by IPSOS MRBI, on behalf of Allianz Care, the international health brand of Allianz Partners.

When it comes to the reasons for originally moving abroad, almost half (49%) say financial gain is a primary driver for moving abroad, however it’s the pursuit of a better quality of life, health and wellbeing that’s key for the majority.  

The research was carried out amongst people living and working in the UK, France, Canada, UAE and Singapore, having been born and educated elsewhere. It explored the impact that COVID-19 has had on them and their families, who the ‘expat’ of 2020 is and what challenges they’re facing.

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%).

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. That figure rises to 72% in Canada and 71% in the UAE, although over a quarter (26%) of those living in Singapore found the work-life balance to be worse there.

While most of those surveyed felt that they had access to better quality healthcare and services while living abroad, contributing to the positive impact on overall health, there were regional disparities. While 72% in Singapore, 67% in UAE, 62% in France and 58% in Canada found services better than in their home country, 23% of those living in the UK said they found the quality of health and wellbeing services there worse than in their native country.

While the term ‘expat’ is still the most popular one that people identify with in 2020 to describe people living and working in a country other than their native one, preferences are changing and differ significantly from country to country. This community no longer refer to themselves solely as ‘expats’ preferring to use terms such as ‘global citizen’, ‘immigrant’ or ‘international worker’.

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.

Speaking about the research findings, Paula Covey, Allianz Partners Chief Marketing Officer for Health said:

“2020 has been a life-changing year for many of us across the world as we deal with the implications of COVID-19. Massive lifestyle changes have been forced on us almost overnight, which in turn have forced us to re-assess how we live our lives and re-evaluate what’s truly important. The same is absolutely true for the ‘expat’ community who are living and working across the globe. This comes across strongly in the increasing prioritisation of health and family.

“We’re also seeing a shift in terms of the life plans of these people. In the past, ‘expat’ assignments tended to be highly paid and were often short-term, but our research has shown that this community is now taking a more long-term view of life abroad. 76% said they had changed job since moving to their new country, 59% have bought a home and 58% said they plan to stay in their adopted country long-term. It’s an interesting trend to watch for employers, who are starting to move away from the traditional expat assignment model and towards more local recruitment in each market.

“This research is extremely useful for Allianz Care, to understand the challenges and considerations facing this global community in a post-COVID world. It tells us where we can support in terms of tools, guidance and information. It’s unsurprising that distance from friends and family is cited as the main challenge of living abroad (47%), followed by the weather (39%) and cultural differences for 33% of respondents. We can’t change a country’s climate, but we can put services in place to support people’s mental health when they’re dealing with loneliness, missing their friends and family or struggling to adjust. We can also provide support to help people settle into their new home, with guidance on what cultural differences to expect in countries around the world. Listening to our customers means we can constantly adapt our services and offerings to meet ever-evolving healthcare needs. The pandemic has shown all of us just how fast things can change.”

Allianz Care provides international health, life and disability cover and services to multinational companies, inter-governmental (IGOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), private individuals and families.