Workers from overseas in the UK are more likely to return to their home country since Covid-19, meaning the talent shortage could increase.

A Cigna Europe report, using more than 18,000 people from around the world found 89 percent of expats say they are suffering from stress.

In an HR Review report, experts suggested recruiting from overseas would help curb the talent shortage.


A third of expats want to go home

However, Cigna Europe found more than a third of the expat workforce say they plan to relocate home. Family finances, lack of job opportunities and education topped their list of concerns.

The report also reveals more than half of expats would like holistic support from their employer to help manage stress and work-life balance.  56 percent want more mental health support – yet only 30 percent receive it. 

However Cigna found that expat life is still an ‘appealing choice’ for many, despite Brexit and Covid-19.


Flexible working is an important recruitment factor

According to an HSBC report on expats, nearly 7 in 10 see flexible working as an important factor when thinking about their host country. This is another demonstration of flexible, hybrid or remote working being important to retain staff. 

The HSBC report of 20,000 expats also ranked the ten best countries in the world.

The UK made the list, but was at number 8, above Poland and Switzerland but below China, the USA and Hong Kong, which ranked number 1.

A third (33%) of expats are now optimistic about living in their host location for the next 12 months because of the career opportunities available to them and the same amount 


Expats recommend moving overseas but not all are optimistic

HSBC found a third of expats would recommend moving abroad in the next year to increase earnings. But only 33 percent were optimistic about living in their host country for the next 12 months.

Cameron Senior, Interim Head of HSBC expat said: “Global expats have shown real resilience during the pandemic, facing the same challenges as many of us, all while likely being away from friends and family.”

According to Cigna nearly a quarter of people currently based in their home country, including the UK, said they wanted to  relocate. 35 percent of local employees have cited better job opportunities and career paths as their top reason. But other key motivators included the desire to broaden cultural experiences (35%) as well as learn new skills (27%).


HR leaders need to support expat workers

Mr Senior added: “However, (expats’) continued optimism and appetite to continue their overseas journeys are admirable. Moving abroad at any stage is a big life decision and career factors can be an important deciding element.”

Expats reported higher well-being scores than local employees, according to the Cigna survey, which called for HR and business leaders to prioritise adequate support systems for the expat workforce. It says with pandemic fatigue and a higher number of expats (when compared to locals) suffering from stress, this is more important than ever.

Robin Lewis is the HR Director at Cigna Europe. He said COVID-19 has had implications for HR leaders who must look at talent management strategies – including holistic support – so they can attract and retain their expat workers.

Mr Lewis said: “Businesses that will remain competitive in the long-term are the ones that go above and beyond to provide expat talent with support systems that help manage their overall stress and concerns.” 


Expats don’t think they can maintain their standard of living

Of the working expats surveyed who have been living abroad for 1-2 years, only 47 percent are confident that they can maintain their current standard of living. Fewer than half (44%) say they have enough financial security to support their families in case of emergencies – one of the reasons many people become expats in the first place.

CEO at Cigna Europe, Arjan Toor says the global expat workforce is integral to helping businesses around the world be better but with the travel challenges and financial worries that have come with Covid means businesses must support their foreign workers. 

He said: “Whether it is helping inexperienced expat professionals settle into a new country or providing longer tenure expats with ongoing support to manage stress, supporting their whole health should be a key priority, as we usher in different ways of living and working.” 






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Feyaza Khan has been a journalist for more than 20 years in print and broadcast. Her special interests include neurodiversity in the workplace, tech, diversity, trauma and wellbeing.