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The Effect of the Coronavirus on Expats

Expatland is a country based on the idea that people have freedom to move around the world in search of certain benefits. Studies show that one of the main reasons for relocation is to improve one’s financial position.

So what is the situation in Expandland during the unprecedented COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak? At a time when finances are at risk, and worry for family and loved ones at home are high – what choice will expats make – to stay in their host country during the crisis or to return home? How will the current situation affect expats’ life?

Capability of the host country

The actions that expats take and the decision to stay or to return varies based on how the host country deals with the crisis. The countries of Southeast Asia that experienced  SARS several years ago, in general, were more prepared and acted faster; quick response, joint efforts, high social responsibility of the population gave viable results and has contributed, to date, to getting a handle on the spread of the virus.

Expats in Southeast Asia

 According to expats in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea and China – the governments’ approach to coping with the pandemic gave them confidence in their own security. High consciousness of the population, which followed the simple rules of social distancing and disinfection, brought order into initial chaotic moods.

Needless to say that countries with high migrant rates were most vulnerable to the fast spread of the virus – intense human flows in and out added up to the total number of registered cases. However, this negative effect was offset by the high levels of public trust in the government: most countries of South-East Asia have trust levels higher than the world average.

Expats in Africa

Unlike the South-East Asian region, where there was no mass exodus of expats – in the African countries the situation is quite different. Many expats made decisions to flee the countries, despite the fact that governments in that region have made efforts to follow and implement WHO guidelines. The core problem there is that the number of locally transmitted cases of coronavirus is equal to almost zero, while the majority of cases were “imported” by Europeans, coming from the epidemic sites.

The above, combined with a weak healthcare system, which would not be able to survive the mass outbreak of infection, provoked manifestations of discontent towards expats by the local population.

Many expats chose to leave their host countries and return home, at least for a while, although some do not exclude the possibility that in the future the local population attitude towards foreigners will continue to have a negative effect, people will see them as a potential threat to their own health.

Expats in Europe

Expats, who live in Europe, mostly decided to stay, according to the information from the Chambers of Commerce in some countries. Some expats have indicated employment policies (in relation to sick leave) and the healthcare conditions are better in the host countries than in their home countries; many of them are married to locals and, those working in executive positions, considered that in hard times they should stay with their employees.

Looking at the positives

The aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic are still unclear. However, some positives in a time of uncertainty, could be that many expats locked down in their homes may come up with new ways of doing-business, reasonably adapting their work processes to the new realities and employing more capabilities of modern technologies.