New report shows record number of expats worldwide

A recent report by market research and financial consultancy company Finaccord found that the number of expatriates across the world is at a record level, and growth is expected to continue over the next few years.

The "Global Expatriates: Size, Segmentation and Forecast for the Worldwide Market" report stated that there are roughly 50.5 million expats worldwide, and the figure is expected to reach 56.8 million by 2017 – which is 0.77 percent of the total global population. Over the past five years, there has been a compound annual growth rate of 2.4 percent. Saudi Arabia has the most expats and India has the highest rate of citizens expatriating.

"Global mobility has increased significantly over the past decade, and expatriates constitute a large and diverse market," said Tobias Schneider, a consultant at Finaccord.

The report is the first to provide a worldwide analysis of global expats. It utilizes data from 30 inbound countries and 25 outbound countries, which were chosen based on economic status and role in the expat market. The inbound countries included the U.S., Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy and Brazil, among others. Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea and Spain were among the outbound countries. 

Breaking down the figures
According to the report, most expats – 73.6 percent – are individual workers. Students, retired expats, corporate transferees and any remaining expat groups round out the ranking at 8.8 percent, 3.7 percent, 1.0 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively. Even though students are not yet the top group, the report estimated that the category will have the most rapid growth between 2013 and 2017, with a compound annual growth rate of 3.6 percent.

Individual workers are predicted to have the second-strongest growth rate at 3.2 percent, followed by retired expatriates (2.9 percent) and corporate transferees (2.8 percent).

The United Arab Emirates and U.S. followed Saudi Arabia in the rankings for the largest number of expats. The expat population makes up 98.4 percent of Saudi Arabia's total immigration population. Poland, Portugal and Sweden had the smallest expat populations. Qatar had the highest proportion of expats compared to its total population, at 70.9 percent.

China and the U.K. followed India for producing the most expats.

Gulf Coast countries drawing talent
The report also found that Asian countries – specifically those in the Gulf Coast – have been attracting expats at a faster rate in the past few years.

"The number of expatriates in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states – mainly individual workers from Asian countries – has increased at an enormous pace in recent years, as these economies are heavily dependent on the inflow of foreign workers," Schneider said. "In contrast, in other countries such as the U.K. and the U.S., international students constitute a comparatively large proportion of the total expatriate population whilst Spain still attracts many retired expatriates, although this number has itself fallen since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008."

Taking advantage of the data
Although immigration policies in any country is subject to change without fair notice, the numbers can provide an indication of some nations' feelings toward immigrant labor. With Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar accepting high numbers of expats, they may be viable locations for establishing overseas firms with the help of assignees.

The study results may also indicate the direction of employee relocation in regard to location preference.