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What Role Should Expats Play in Economic Sustainability?

Living in modern-day UK, it’s hard to ignore the issue of immigration in the wake of the EU referendum vote. This continues to polarise opinion between the left and right of the political spectrum, despite recent reports confirming that migrants from the European Union are net contributors to the UK economy and collectively pay £20 billion more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

This article was written exclusively for Expat Network by Edward Roebuck on behalf of the IG Group

For some, a great deal of confusion surrounds the use of the word ‘migrant’ in this context. After all, many conflate the word migrant with individuals who are poor and seeking refuge from abroad, as opposed to expatriates who are considered to be more affluent and likely to enter the UK for the purpose of work.

While there are defined differences between expatriates and migrants, of course, it would be wrong to generalise in such an inaccurate way. In fact, migrants tend to make more permanent moves in order to seek work and improve their standard of living, whereas expatriate refers to a person who relocates on a temporary, intra-company transfer through an existing job and for a predetermined period of time.

Interestingly, the contribution of expats to the economies in which they reside is also becoming a key talking point in the modern age, particularly in terms of how they spend their money. In this post, we’ll explore this further and ask whether expats bear a responsibility to invest sustainably and in their local areas?


What is the Key Topic for Debate?

Let’s start with a basic assertion; expatriates tend to be major driving forces of the economic performance in the areas that they move to. This is largely due to the presence of increased remuneration and beneficial tax provisions for expatriates, which provide an incentive to relocate and enable individuals to make a more comfortable transition overseas. As a result of these provisions, expatriates tend to have higher amounts of disposable income, which is then reinvested into the local economy.

The issue revolves around where this money is spent, as it is not always invested in a manner that is culturally sustainable. Expats can remain heavily reliant on multi-national supermarket brands and foreign deliveries when buying everyday items and groceries, for example, rather than making a commitment to broaden their tastes and invest in local produce and suppliers. In areas of high economic migration, this can force independent and local chains out of the marketplace and have a negative effect in the longer-term.

Now, no single organisation or government can compel expatriates to spend their money in a certain way or with specific suppliers, and this means that expats themselves must assume individual responsibility for driving cultural sustainability in their local communities. This means making an attempt to invest in local produce and businesses, in a bid to reinvest their capital into the small ventures that underpin most national economies.

This is a fair and reasoned consideration, particularly as expatriates do not intend to live in their destination country indefinitely and plan to return home at a specified date in the future. With this in mind, it’s only right that temporary residents are committed to driving cultural and economic sustainability within the region, so that it continues to thrive long after they have left.


The Last Word – The Ball is in the Expats’ Court

 Whenever an expat prepares to relocate, they take steps to prepare for their trip and a key transitional period while abroad. To this end, many aspiring expats will research the cultural heritage of their intended destination and its core dialects, while some may learn how to trade currency in order to make the most of their capital.

This same level of thought and preparedness should also be deployed when expats arrive abroad, as they look to leverage their spending power and invest it sustainably into the local economy.

This way, they can potentially save money and make the most of their disposable income, while paying respect to their local community and investing in a way that safeguards its future.