Interpreting Expat Surveys
HSBC has published new survey findings, called "Offshore Offspring", where they looked at the experience expat parents have with raising their children internationally. Parents were surveyed to rate their country on time their children spent outdoors and studying, the cost of raising them, how many languages the children spoke, and whether they would remain in the country.
General findings include that expat children seem to be more active outdoors abroad than they would be at home, that study-time remained the same for half the respondents (increased for a third, and only decreased for about 10 %), and that children spoke more languages. You can download the study and read all the findings here.
What appeared to have caused controversy is the interpretation of the percentage of parents who stated that raising their children in the host country is more expensive than raising them in their home country. This is the case for 85 % of expats in the United Kingdom and 79 % of parents in the United Arab Emirates. These findings follow another survey in which the UK compared unfavorably in terms of overall expat lifestyle, and at least one publication presented the survey results in a way of extrapolating them to apply to the whole nation in question under the headline "UK a poor place to bring up kids". Thankfully, the article also mentions that there are expats who are quite happy in the UK, and personally, I count my years in Scotland as some of the happiest of my life.
Since money is one of the most sensitive issues to talk about at any given moment, I'm not all that surprised at the responses the survey received. Why do you think parents responded that bringing up their children in the UK costs more than it would in their home country? Maybe because the Pound is so strong? I'm no financial expert, but even I know you do not want to go comparing the Dollar to other currencies just now. I certainly never wanted to compare the Pound to the Deutschmark and later the Euro while I was living in the UK, shopping brought tears to my eyes and I remember becoming an economic vegetarian for a long time, simply because I could afford to buy meat.
I wonder if the expat parents surveyed in the UK were under local contracts, i.e. earning Pounds, or their home-nation currency. Maybe this is a great opportunity for expats and employers to look at actual cost-of-living and adjust expenses and salary calculations? But the point I really wanted to make was this: even though I assume the methodology HSBC's surveys use is sound and representative, and actually, when looking at any statistic, before you read the results and jump to negative conclusions, keep in mind what that survey is; a collection of opinions. The interpretation lies in the editing, and taking a snippit of information at face value may lead to more harm than foster understanding. In case you were wondering, in my opinion that news-headline was not the best way to engage in a dialogue about the issue, but I'm sure it got a lot of readers; hey, it even got me to write about it.
Have a good one, til next time!
Thank you to MadArtists for the free image.