Expats are facing restrictions on living and working in some popular destinations as governments try to tackle local nationalism and unemployment issues.
Several countries that once welcomed expats are now considering turning their backs on foreign workers.
In Switzerland, a referendum on Sunday (February 16, 2014) will decide whether to cap the number of expats in the country – where currently a fifth of citizens are from outside the borders.
If the vote is won by anti-immigration factions, expats in banking and pharmaceuticals are likely to lose the most as up to 45% of workers in the medical and biotechnology sectors are from outside Switzerland.
“This will also hit banks hard,” said a spokesman for the Swiss Bankers Association. “About a quarter of workers are from neighbouring European countries.”
Swiss vote to kick out expats
The referendum in Switzerland seems to be more a case of nationalism than a need to create jobs for the nation – only about 4.4% of the population are unemployed and few of them could replace highly skilled expats if a yes vote wins.
Credit Suisse argues that curbing the number of expats will put back the Swiss economy, lead to falling house prices and slash economic growth by 50%.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, where the government has wheeled out a series of laws to limit the number of expats has made yet another policy U-turn.
Uncertainty over the future of expats in the country is rife due to the sudden introduction of poorly drafted laws that are then suspended or withdrawn after sometimes just days or weeks.
The latest decree to be pulled is a proposal to limit expat stays in the country to eight years while limiting their rights to bring family with them.
Kuwait needs expats to keep economy working
Scant explanation has been given for the change of mind other than ‘more research is needed’.
A similar move in Kuwait, another Gulf State home to high numbers of expats, has also been scrapped by the Government Manpower and Restructuring Program.
MPs had called for the number of expats to be reduced by 100,000 every year for the next decade while applying a five-year limit on expat stays.
Kuwaitis home to around 3 million expats.
The government explained the proposals were rejected because several key sectors of the nation’s economy could not function without the help of expats.