Michael Bleby Reporter

Michael writes on emerging markets, architecture and engineering. He has served as a correspondent in Tokyo, London and Johannesburg and has written for Reuters, the Financial Times, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Aussie expats living large in Asia

Published 26 October 2012 06:42, Updated 01 November 2012 04:01

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Aussie expats living large in Asia

Home away from home ... Hong Kong is host to 8 per cent of all expat Australians.

The strong Australian dollar means expatriate workers may take a financial hit when posted overseas but they are making up for it with exotic holidays and cheap domestic labour, an HSBC survey shows.

In contrast to their counterparts from elsewhere, a greater proportion of Australians say their financial position had worsened (21 per cent compared with a global average of 11 per cent) since moving abroad. However, they are making up for it in other ways, HSBC’s survey of 5300 expats in 100 countries shows.

The proportion of Australian expats using domestic help for the first time was double the global average (33 per cent of Australians versus 16 per cent), while the proportion of respondents taking luxurious holidays as a result of being abroad was also greater than average (31 per cent versus 26 per cent). The study reveals the disproportionately high presence of Australian expats in the region. Hong Kong, which has 3 per cent of the average global expatriate population, is host to 8 per cent of all expat Australians.

Singapore, with 1 per cent of the global average, has 5 per cent of Australians. In China, the figure is 1 per cent of the global average, with 3 per cent of Australians. Michael Bleby

The figures are only likely to strengthen as Australia puts its foreign policy and commercial settings further on an Asian trajectory. The release on Sunday of the government’s long-awaited White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century is likely to highlight the need for engagement with the region that go beyond government level and extend deep into areas like education and workplaces.

“Clearly, Australia’s future is tied to Asia and as we work towards further integration in the region I expect to see the number of Australians heading to Asia increase,” says the head of retail banking and wealth management for HSBC Bank Australia Graham Heunis.

Historical and cultural preferences linger, however. There are almost as many Australian expats in the US (7 per cent of the Australian total, less than the global 11 per cent average) as Hong Kong and the UK still accounts for nearly half of all Australian expats. As many as 44 per cent of Australian expats live in the UK, compared with a global average of 23 per cent.

This year’s survey marks a change from last year, with Asia overtaking the Middle East as the most lucrative region for expatriates to work. While Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain took the top, second, sixth, ninth and equal tenth rankings respectively in last year’s Expat Economics League Table, this year all have been displaced, with the exception of Bahrain, which clung on to ninth place.

The new expat world order is lead by Singapore, with Thailand third, Hong Kong fourth, China seventh and Vietnam tenth. Bermuda comes second, the Cayman Islands fifth, Mexico sixth and Switzerland eighth. India ranks 11th, up from 15th last year.

The report did not say whether domestic labour costs in the Middle East had risen or not.

Michael Bleby

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