Will covid-19 kill the expatriate Golden Age?

Will covid-19 kill the expatriate Golden Age?

Will covid-19 kill the expatriate Golden Age?

Is the coronavirus pandemic signalling the end of the expatriate Golden Age?

Whilst the urge to up sticks and move to a mostly unknown destination has been part of human history for many millennia, could the present day’s millions of foreigners living and working overseas be the last collective gasp of colonisation by stealth? According to analysts, the massive expat exodus over the past three to four decades was sparked by the tech revolution, resulting in a situation resembling a new era of globalisation.

The exodus coincided with the moving of manufacturing companies to countries with far lower wages and running costs, causing a need for qualified expatriates experienced in construction and management expertise in the running of new companies overseas. Following fast from the first world were bankers, corporate executives, medical professionals, and suchlike, all heading for Asia, Africa, Central and South America and other less developed lands with low-cost workers and easily–negotiated rules. More recently, the tech boom caused a relocation to dozens of world countries of thousands of expat entrepreneurs.

Nowadays, even before the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a worldwide financial crisis, the Golden Age was seen to be slowing down, causing rethinks on the part of potential expats as well as their potential bosses. One indication of oncoming change took place in the Gulf States, beginning with the oil price crash a few years ago and causing expat experts to be charged for formerly free services such as healthcare. In 2013, expats were banned from using Kuwait’s public hospitals, thus starting a trend which is now spreading to Southeast Asian hubs such as Thailand.

Another example of the changing times for expats is Saudi Arabia’s Vision2030, the brainchild of the Saudi prince who reputedly ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi. Saudization, as it’s known, is believed by many resident expats to be aimed at ridding the kingdom of expats in the fairly near future, and similar programmes in other Gulf States seem to have the same aim. In Asia, Western-educated locals are returning to grab expat jobs, with government spokespersons stating returnees have more cultural fluency than long-stay expats.

Globalisation may well be in retreat at the present time, with populism taking its place along with the risk of the ending of free trade causing suffering for many in developing countries. Troubled Hong Kong, still reeling from six months of protests, is losing its established expatriate professional community due to the virus and swiftly replacing it with mainland Chinese bankers and investment professionals.

At the same time, the wealthy are being welcomed all over the world after the introduction of the controversial Golden Visas put citizenship up for sale as are yachts and private planes. It seems the times are indeed changing for expats, with the virus playing its part by removing the ease of relocation anywhere in the world.

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