Working Abroad: Is It an Option for You?
Changing Work Patterns
As the third millennium unfolds, our work patterns are changing. No longer do we expect to stay in the same job or with the same organization all through our lives. Another change is that more of us are no longer constrained by national boundaries. We are beginning to think globally.
At one time very few people ventured unless they had to - to fight wars on foreign soil or to escape poverty and injustice at home, for instance. Today we think nothing of jetting to the furthest corners of the planet for a holiday, and more of us are opting to live abroad these days out of choice rather than necessity.
Nowadays, just as people from every country under the sun come to find jobs in Britain, similarly UK nationals can be found working in every corner of the globe. We are becoming less insular, and more cosmopolitan. A new opinion poll reveals that, given the chance, 54 per cent of the population in the UK would like to live and work abroad. And around a quarter of a million are reckoned to leave every year for this reason for either short-term or long-term assignments.
While some of these are Walter Mittys who feel the grass is always greener over the hill, most have genuine motives for wanting to move. They include:
- a lack of opportunities at home
- a desire to travel or live abroad
- the chance to extend their professional experience
- a better salary
- the wish for a more vibrant lifestyle
- family reasons (e.g. marriage to a national of another country)
- a sense of vocation (e.g. to help the Third World to spread the Gospel).
- Others have to. It is a requirement of the job.
A quarter of a million may seem an enormous number, but it must be remembered that relatively few of these will be taking up permanent appointment abroad. Many of the posts in foreign countries tend to be on contract terms - so a similar number of expatriates will be returning at the same time.
This contrasts with the situation in the past when a posting to another country usually represented a lifelong commitment. You joined the Colonial Service, the Indian Army or a firm with extensive overseas involvement, and stayed overseas - apart from intermittent leave - until retirement. Nowadays it is virtually impossible for people to spend the whole of their careers in one location. Moreover, the need is for people with particular skills - IT specialists, engineers and teachers - rather than generalists who learn the job as they go along.
Another difference is that the age range of people taking up posts abroad has widened. The jobs market is more fluid than it used to be, and people are more prepared to change direction these days, either by choice of from necessity.