An immigration line
  • In some countries, the pandemic has put a big dent in enthusiasm for moving abroad, either temporarily or for good.
  • In South Africa, on the other hand, only a tenth of those who were considering an international move have changed their minds, a new survey says.
  • Better economic prospects and a better lifestyle are by far the biggest pull factors, with the push of safety or political concerns trailing far behind.
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In the United Kingdom, enthusiasm for moving abroad is way, way down since Covid-19 arrived.

After the pandemic put an effective halt on movement, a fifth of UK respondents who had been due to make an international move cancelled those plans, a new survey has found. Another 30% now say they are less likely to move country – and some 36% of those who had moved to the UK from elsewhere in the world said they had considered moving home.

But only a few South Africans were similarly deterred. In a local sample of just over 1,000 people, more than 80% of those who had plans to move to another country had already done so, or still plan to go ahead. And only 20% described themselves as less keen for an international relocation due to the pandemic. 

Specialist personal relocation company Seven Seas Worldwide conducted the survey in June, seeking out people with the ability to travel and who may be interested in a cross-border move in South Africa, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, and parts of the USA.

It found that people still move country to create opportunities for themselves, rather than in response to circumstances, the company says in its 2021 Global Movement Report, though Covid-19 has, in some places, changed their thinking.

Surveys in various countries, often focussed on short-term travel, have found respondents worried that they could get stuck abroad, or be unable to return home as frequently as they would like. Those contemplating longer-term stays have also cited fears for the health of family members at home as a reason not to leave.

South Africans remain more willing than most to leave, and for periods longer than a year or two Seven Seas says of its findings, and for much the same reasons as before – the prospect of more money, and a better way of living.

Asked for their top reasons reasons for an international relocation, 54% of the South African respondents cited economic, work, or job-related reasons, and another 41% said they wanted a better lifestyle or standard of living. Another 36% said education or training opportunities were their biggest pulls.

Reasons of politics or personal safety came in at 14% – behind being with family, and to experience a new culture.

Among those who want to leave SA, 28% said they would go for less than two years, and 38% thought they would return within three to five years. A quarter said they did not anticipate moving anywhere else once they left SA.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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