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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expat Entrepreneurs around the World

Self-employed professionals and entrepreneurs usually move abroad for a better quality of life elsewhere, but their financial situation is often just average.
  • Men dominate among expat entrepreneurs
  • Business services and professional consulting main area of expertise
  • High satisfaction with working hours and work-life balance
  • Kazakhstan and Malta most popular destinations for the self-employed
  • Peru and Costa Rica attract business owners

Expat Profiles 2016

Expat Entrepreneurs and Self-Employed Professionals — infographic

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Aiming to Settle Down

Respondents who chose self-employed professional or business owner as their main employment status represent 8% and 5% of all participants, respectively. Male expats are the majority in both roles: 63% of all respondents describing their job with either title are men. The average age among self-employed expats is 46.5 years, so they are slightly older than the average participant (43.0 years).

The somewhat higher age might be one factor that contributes to explaining their family status: more than seven in ten (71%) are in a committed relationship (globally: 63%). Among self-employed professionals and business owners, over one-quarter (27%) are also raising children abroad, compared to a worldwide average of 21%.

Last but not least, both groups are far more likely to be in it for good: 40% and 44% of self-employed professionals and business owners, respectively, plan to possibly settle in their chosen destination forever (globally: 31%).

Looking for Better Opportunities

As far as their most important motivation for moving abroad is concerned, 8% of self-employed professionals say they were looking for an adventure or a personal challenge (global average: 6%), but their most popular response is finding a job on their own (14% vs. 15% globally). This implies that about one in seven self-employed professionals moved abroad to work as a regular employee and only decided to run their own business later on.

Among business owners and entrepreneurs, there’s a similar tendency: only 19% — more than six times the global average of 3%, though — wanted to start their own business in their destination in the first place. Another 12% cite seeking a better quality of life as the reason for their move abroad (globally: 9%). Thus, self-employment was actually not the original motivation for most people who are now self-employed or running their own business abroad.

With a wish for better living conditions and a sense of adventure, self-employed professionals, as well as business owners and entrepreneurs, often fall into the category of Greener Pastures Expat in the Expat Insider typology: 24% and 42% of them, respectively, could be classified thus, compared to the 18% global average. Some of them (12%) are also Romantics, whose reasons for relocating include moving for love and living in their partner’s home country.

Tight on Money but Happy at Work

Looking at both business owners and self-employed professionals together, we find that 17% work in business services and professional consulting, making this the most popular area of expertise within this group. Among business owners and entrepreneurs only, the percentage of expats working in this sector is even higher at 19%. The latter are also numerous in the retail and wholesale sector (13%), as well as the accommodation, food services, and tourism industry (12%). Among self-employed professionals, the majority works in the healthcare sector, more than three times the global average (17% vs. 5%). Education and research, plus the law and legal services, also stand out for this group.

Among self-employed professionals, the percentage of those who work part time (30%) is double the global average of 15%, while the figure for business owners is not so far behind at 26%. Regarding working hours, both groups are more satisfied with this factor than the average respondent — even though their full-time working hours are indeed longer than average. The same goes for the work-life balance, with a quarter of the business owners even saying they are completely satisfied.

The financial situation could be better for self-employed professionals and business owners alike. Even though their satisfaction with this aspect is just about average, they still think they would probably have made more money with a similar career path back home, with more than one-third (36%) saying so (globally: 27%). Additionally, when asked whether their disposable income is sufficient for their daily life, 23% think it is not enough.

Where Entrepreneurs Shine

Are there any typical destinations for these expats? Self-employed professionals are especially well represented in Kazakhstan (15%) and Malta (10%), compared to a global average of 5%. Business owners are especially common in Peru (21%) and Costa Rica (19%), though (globally: 8%). It appears that of all nationalities represented in our survey, Egyptians are the most likely to be self-employed professionals (13%), while Israelis abroad are more likely to be business owners (18%) than any other nationality.

In terms of the difficulties that they face in the course of their relocation, dealing with business-related bureaucracy seems to pose major problems, followed by visa and work permit issues. On the other hand, registering the business itself, as well as having academic and professional qualifications recognized in the new country of residence, is not as much of a hassle.

Further Reading