An increasing number of Belgian expats dream of an international career but realising this dream is another matter. When choosing the expat country and the possibility of departure, social, economic and geopolitical issues play a role – only think about the coronavirus crisis, which has impeded the free movement of people. Nevertheless, most Belgians won’t be stopped when an expat opportunity falls into their lap.
A good example of the impact of geopolitical trends can be felt in the expatriation towards the United States. At the onset of the 20th century, the US was known as the country of freedom, a place where dreams became reality. When asking someone to what country they would prefer to emigrate, the majority of people replied 'America'. Yet a recent research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in cooperation with The Network (2021) contradicts this statement. America is heading down in the list of most attractive places of work. How have things got to this point?
The coronavirus crisis and the geopolitical trends underlie this decreasing trend, which for that matter has hit the whole world. The coronavirus pandemic – the best known cause – has left its mark on the professional life of expats. According to the survey, the interest in expatriation has generally diminished. In case they leave anyway, people are more inclined to choose countries that have succeeded better in controlling the coronavirus. In that sense places like Singapore, Tokyo and Dubai have become attractive workplaces, whereas cities like New York, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona have become less popular.
What is striking in this survey is that Belgians more than ever wish to work abroad. Not less than 74% of the Belgians are willing to work abroad or are working abroad, which is an increase by 19% compared to 2018 (55%).
Apart from the coronavirus crisis that has weakened the mobility trend of expatriates and has customized teleworking, the immigration policies of several countries also play a restrictive role. The Brexit is a good example of this tendency.
The decrease of the mobility trend is nowadays still a chicken-and-egg story but what is certain is that the expat possibilities of Belgians are more subject to social and economic trends in turbulent times.
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