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SA offers expats adventure, lifestyle

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Globally mobile individuals, also known as expatriates (expats), who choose to live and work in South Africa, cite the adventure (74%), a better quality of life (72%), or to gain international experience (67%) as their reasons for accepting assignments in the country.
These reasons are likely to be similar for expats living and working throughout Africa, given the continent’s rapidly evolving markets and abundant natural beauty.
This is according to the 2017 Cigna 360° Well-being Survey, which looks at the health, well-being, and sense of security among 2 000 expats living in 20 markets across five continents.
Expats around the world, including those working in South Africa, share a high level of concern about the quality of medical care available in the countries they are in. With this in mind, more than half of these individuals consider medical insurance coverage to be a very important factor when considering a move overseas.
Perceptions of physical, financial, social, family and work health among expats were also examined and compared with all working people in the 2017 survey.
“Our 360° Well-being Survey captures the sentiments of an expat environment that is rapidly evolving. Overseas assignments are becoming shorter — a decade ago, going overseas typically meant a three or four-year relocation, but assignments today can be for less than 12 months,” explains Gilles Nyssens, business development director: Africa at Cigna.
“Some expats do not relocate at all–instead working on project-based assignments and even commuting via extended business trips has become common, allowing organisations to access global talent when relocation is not possible.”
South Africa-based expats mostly feel that the change has been worth it, with 68% reported being satisfied or completely satisfied with their move, and 67% satisfied or completely satisfied with their career prospects.
Given the variety of working conditions, state of infrastructure and access to resources in the rest of Africa, employers are likely to face tough challenges to satisfy expats operating in other African jurisdictions.
The survey also revealed that while 89% of South African-based expats have excellent or very good relationships with co-workers, 77% experience the same with supervisors. While these percentages are higher in South Africa than in other countries, this will probably be the case throughout Africa, considering the warmth, engagement and hospitality of most of Africa’s peoples.
However, only 37% of expats in South Africa are satisfied with the country’s economic outlook, compared to the 63% worldwide, and they too are concerned about the country’s economic woes. This leads to higher levels of insecurity, concerns about financial health and lower perceptions about their ability to take care of their family’s health and well-being.
While the economic outlook varies from country to country in Africa, levels of insecurity and concerns about financial health may well be at similar levels for expats across the continent. This could be one of the most significant human capital challenges for organisations that depend on expat talent and that believe in nurturing this talent.
Expats generally have a lower perception of the state of their personal health and wellness than the overall working population, remaining concerned about the financial implications of falling ill.
With the significant healthcare infrastructure and delivery challenges faced in the rest of Africa, it would be understandable if this concern was acute for expats deployed in such countries.
These findings come as no surprise at a time where there is increasing pressure on corporations and NGOs around the world to demonstrate adequate “duty of care” when it comes to employees, including expats. More than a quarter (27%) of global expats, and 38% of expats in South Africa, feel subject to an insufficient duty of care, which places an onus on employers to take all reasonable possible steps to ensure the health, well-being and safety of their employees.
This percentage is expected to be higher for other African countries, where access to medical care is much more limited than in South Africa.
“The message is clear among expats – health and well-being are as much a priority as job opportunities, security and salary,” says Nyssens. “For organisations employing expats anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, an extrapolation of the survey’s results may provide a roadmap for increasing the retention of this increasingly important employee segment.
“For organisations that understand that expat talent deployed into African markets is more than a commodity, engaging the hopes and fears of this globally mobile employee segment is important. However, providing solutions to dilemmas faced by those building careers on this vast-continent, is equally important. Having a great health plan represents a fine start.”