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Expat Lifestyle Still ‘Appealing Choice’ For Many In Post-Brexit World Despite Greater Stress And Uncertainty Caused By COVID-19 Featured

In The iPMI Picture: Arjan Toor, CEO at Cigna Europe. In The iPMI Picture: Arjan Toor, CEO at Cigna Europe.
  • Expat workforce have expressed worries around family finances (30%), lack of job opportunities (24%) and education (16%)
  • Greater Whole Health support will be crucial to support the changing needs of expat workforce in the future

COVID-19 has done little to dampen the aspirational nature of the expat lifestyle.

The appetite to experience life overseas has increased, with nearly a quarter (23%) of people currently based in their home country expressing a desire to relocate. 35% of local employees have cited better job opportunities and career paths as their top reason, with other key motivators including the desire to broaden cultural experiences (35%) as well as learn new skills (27%).

The survey also found that while expats reported higher well-being scores than local employees, HR and business leaders need to prioritise adequate Whole Health support systems for the expat workforce amid pandemic fatigue and uncertainty about the future. 89% say they are suffering from stress compared to 81% of locals – with family finances (30%), lack of job opportunities (24%) and education (16%) topping the list of concerns.

Of the working expats surveyed who have been living abroad for 1-2 years, only 47% are confident that they can maintain their current standard of living and less than half (44%) say they have enough financial security to support their families in case of emergencies.

Almost a third (30%) of all expats thinking about relocating back home cite future finances as one of their top concerns. Despite this, close to half (45%) of expats have reported high resilience compared to 37% of local employees living in their home countries.

Arjan Toor, CEO at Cigna Europe, said, “The global expat workforce has been integral in helping businesses around the world unlock new opportunities. As these individuals continue to face challenges such as travel restrictions and financial worries, it is critical that organisations provide the necessary support for expat employees as they adjust to their new work and home life. 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.”

The report also reveals more than half (57%) of expats are keen for holistic support from their employer to help manage stress and work-life balance, with 56% seeking more mental health support – yet only 30% receive it.

Robin Lewis, HR Director, Cigna Europe added, “COVID-19 has profound implications for how HR and business leaders should look at talent management strategies to attract and retain a globally representative workforce. As expat professionals increasingly look to employers to help adjust to their new work and home life, 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.”

Download the reports:

Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey: A Guide for HR Managers: Combatting Stress Amongst Your Expat Workforce is developed specially for business and HR leaders to offers insights into the drivers and changing preferences for the expat workforce, looking at how they have fared and providing insights for talent managers and business leaders on how to better support expat employees.

Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey: Expat Guide to Managing Health and Well-being is designed as a guide for expats, looking at the impact of COVID-19 on well-being scores for different groups of expats based on their tenure and duration of stay as the global pandemic progressed. The report also uncovers the different pain points experienced by expats and offer suggestions to address these challenges.


Ian Youngman, leading insurance analyst and author of the leading iPMI market report, “International Health Insurance 2021" comments, "The excellent news here is that many more people are considering working overseas.

Perhaps 2 years of doom and gloom have made people think they should take opportunities while they can. And people have been adapting their life and work style to cope.

Before all insurers and brokers panic that existing IPMI customers are about to go home, the research was conducted way back in April 2021 when most borders were still closed and many countries in lock down.

We do not know the normal churn – how many expats go home each year either as a number or %.

There is a massive difference between the heart telling you to go home, and your head telling you that there may be no jobs to go back to, or you will have to suffer a serious salary cut while your employers may not take kindly to it.

Most Cigna customers tend to be expats at the middle or upper end of the salary scale. In reality the vast majority of foreign workers and expats are low level badly paid employees.

Figures from India, the Middle East and the UK suggest that more people than ever are either buying health insurance or considering it.

Many more countries are making it harder for foreigners to work as expats, digital nomads, or temporary workers without proof of health insurance.

Over two thirds of expats and foreign workers do not have health insurance.

So my conclusion is that there is still a massive market to aim for in 2022.

Insurers and brokers will have to move away from just competing for business that comes to them- to a much more positive push to sell the concept.

This may mean a move away from all singing all dancing IPMI products- or even budget versions- to genuinely affordable products that foreign workers and expats on a tight budget can afford.

There could be thousands or hundreds of thousands of digital nomads but so far –despite this being a reality for 9 months- I have seen only one genuine digital nomad product-from an obscure broker.

So there is still a massive IPMI market.

What brokers and insurers need to do is convince employers that it is madness to send people overseas without training, preparation and a full support system that includes health insurance.

If in the middle of a global pandemic you cannot persuade more people to buy health insurance – and amend your products – what are you doing in the market?"

Read the iPMI report, International Health Insurance (IPMI) 2021 by Ian Youngman, click here.


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