WEF’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report: Singapore Overtakes USA for Number 1 Spot. Where Does SA Stand?

Ten years on from the global financial crisis, the world economy remains locked in a cycle of low or flat productivity growth despite the injection of more than $10 trillion by central banks. The latest Global Competitiveness Report paints a gloomy picture, yet it also shows that those countries with a holistic approach to socio-economic challenges, look set to get ahead in the race to the frontier.

The World Economic Forum‘s (WEF) latest Global Competitiveness Report 2019 showed that Singapore has overtaken the United States to become the most competitive nation in the world. The US is losing ground in measures such as “healthy life expectancy” and preparedness for the future skills needed in the 21st century, the report says.

Some of this year’s better performers appear to be benefiting from the trade feud between China and the US, including Singapore and Vietnam. Led by Singapore, the East Asia and the Pacific
region is the most competitive in the world.

Covering 141 economies, the index measures national competitiveness—defined as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity and long-term economic growth.

The report measures the strength of 103 key indicators, such as inflation, digital skills and trade tariffs, arranged into 12 pillars. Each indicator, or ‘pillar’ uses a scale from 0 to 100, to show how close an economy is to the ideal state or ‘frontier’ of competitiveness in that area. With a score of 84.8, Singapore is the world’s most competitive economy in 2019, overtaking the US, which falls to second place. Hong Kong SAR, Netherlands and Switzerland round up the top five.

Top 10 performers on the 2019 WEF Global Competitiveness Report.

“The world is at a social, environmental and economic tipping point. Subdued growth, rising inequalities and accelerating climate change provide the context for a backlash against capitalism, globalization, technology, and elites,” the WEF warned.

“There is gridlock in the international governance system and escalating trade and geopolitical tensions are fueling uncertainty. “This holds back investment and increases the risk of supply shocks: disruptions to global supply chains, sudden price spikes or interruptions in the availability of key resources,” it said.

Singapore

Singapore has long been a thriving global financial center, and has built itself up despite limited land. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.

The city-state is classified as an Alpha+ global city, indicating its influence on the global economy. Singapore is the only country in Asia with an AAA sovereign rating from all major rating agencies, and one of 11 worldwide. Singapore is a highly developed country and is ranked 9th on the UN Human Development Index, the highest in Asia for a sovereign state, with the 3rd highest GDP per capita in the world. It was ranked the most expensive city to live in from 2013 to 2019 by the Economist, and is identified as a tax haven.

Along with benefits from the ongoing US-China trade war, Singapore’s financial system and macroeconomic stability raised its rating.

Singapore ranked 2nd overall in the 2018 report. This year, the country ranks first in terms of infrastructure, health, labor market functioning, and financial system.

While Hong Kong was penalized in points for their lacking worker protection (scoring only 10 points, and ranking 116th in the category), Singapore ranked well, scoring 89 points, and ranking 18th for worker protection.

Singapore improves from an already high base on 10 of the 12 pillars, and its score on every pillar is between 4 and 19 points higher than the OECD average. The country ranks first on the Infrastructure pillar (95.4), where it also ranks first for road quality infrastructure, efficiency of seaport and airport services, and sea transport connectivity. It also tops the Health (100), Labor market (81.2) and Financial system pillars (+2.0 points, 91.3), and achieves a nearly perfect score for Macroeconomic stability (+7.1, 99.7, 38th).

Performance in terms of market efficiency (81.2, 2nd behind Hong Kong SAR) is driven by the fact that Singapore is the most open economy in the world. Singapore ranks 2nd (80.4) for the quality of public institutions, behind Finland, but its performance is undermined by limited checks and balances (65.9, 23rd)—Singapore notably ranks 124th on the Freedom of the Press Index—and lack of commitment to sustainability (63.5, 66th). Going forward, in order to become a global innovation hub, Singapore will need to promote entrepreneurship and further improve its skills base, albeit from a relatively high base (78.8, 19th).

Southern Africa

Led by Mauritius (52nd), sub-Saharan Africa is overall the least competitive region, with 25 of the 34 economies assessed this year scoring below 50.

South Africa, the second most competitive in the region, improves to the 60th position, while Namibia (94th), Rwanda (100th), Uganda (115th) and Guinea (122nd) all improve significantly, the WEF showed. Among the other large economies in the region, Kenya (95th) and Nigeria (116th) also improve their performances, but lose some positions, overcome by faster climbers, the report said.

South Africa

South Africa’s competitiveness has regained momentum after the recent political landscape shift and climbed seven places in 2019. The country is a regional financial hub (83.2, 19th), with well-developed equity, insurance and credit markets, all achieving a score of 100, the report said.

South Africa’s WEF Global Competitiveness Report 2019 scores.

It has also developed one of the most advanced transport infrastructures in the region (45th) and is among the top countries in Africa for market size (35th). Beyond these established strengths, health conditions—though starting from a low base (118th)—are better, adding 3.3 years to the average healthy life expectancy since the last assessment. Institutional quality has also improved (55th) but unevenly, the report said.

Some aspects of this category have achieved ‘remarkable progress’, including restored balance of powers across different state’s entities (16th), enhanced administrative efficiency of the public sector (39th) and corporate governance (26th).

Other aspects however, continue to perform poorly: security (135th) remains one of the main restraints to South Africa’s competitiveness, while transparency (62nd) and government adaptability to change (100th) are also below par, the report said.

“Further, South Africa’s competitiveness is being held back by relatively low business dynamism (60th), which is inhibited by insolvency regulation and administrative burdens to start a business, and a persistently insufficient labor market flexibility (111th),” the WEF said.

The report showed that flexibility of wage determination is limited (134th) and hiring foreign labor is difficult (123rd). “South Africa’s sensitivity to exports of mineral resources is likely to hit the country’s economic outlook and will make reducing unemployment (projected above 27%) challenging. “Against this backdrop, structural reforms are needed tore-ignite the economy and offer better opportunities to a larger share of South African citizens.”

How to get to number 1

The index examines the relationship between competitiveness and the two other dimensions of sustainable development – social cohesiveness and environmental sustainability. It shows that there are no inherent trade-offs between competitiveness and sustainability, and between competitiveness and social cohesiveness. This suggests a “win-win” policy space, where a productive, low-carbon, inclusive economy is possible, and it is the only viable option going forward.

  1. Be an all-rounder: The report is a reminder to apply a holistic approach and to better balance short-term considerations against factors whose impact is felt beyond quarterly results and election cycles. For example, the results of the index show that labor and education policies have not been keeping up with the pace of innovation in most countries, including in some of the largest and most innovative economies.
  2. Integrate tech: Governments must better anticipate the unintended consequences of technological integration and implement complementary social policies that support populations through the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The report shows that several economies with strong innovation capability like South Korea, Japan and France, or increasing capability, like China, India and Brazil, must improve their talent base and the functioning of their labor markets.
  3. Education: Talent adaptability is critical. It pays to enable the workforce to contribute to the technology revolution and to be able to cope with its disruptions. Talent adaptability also requires a well-functioning labor market that protects workers, not jobs. Advanced economies such as South Korea, Italy, France and, to some extent, Japan need to develop their skills base and tackle rigidities in their labor markets.

To read the full report, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4]. Image sources: [1], [2].

September 21st is World Cleanup Day

September 21st is World Cleanup Day, and we encourage everyone to get involved however they can.

World Cleanup Day is an international effort to band together and clean up our earth, to do our part in preventing the growing climate crisis we find ourselves in.

World Cleanup Day on 15 September 2018 united 18 million people across 157 countries and territories, for the biggest waste collection day in human history.

This year, it aligns with the UN-sanctioned International Day of Peace, as well as falls around the time of two school strikes for climate. One is the September 20 Climate Strike, three days before a UN emergency climate summit being held in New York,and the other is with 350.org and Earth Strike next week, on the 27th.

To find out more about World Cleanup Day, click here, and to find out how to get involved, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint While Traveling

According to the University of Innsbruck, a recent study shows that we are helping to melt nearly 6 400 kilograms of glacier ice when travelling by plane. We need to pay more attention to our carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really much we can do about it this point, other than staying at home and never setting foot out of our front door ever again. The same study explained:

“The further melting of glaciers cannot be prevented in the current century – even if all emissions were stopped now. However, due to the slow reaction of glaciers to climate change, our behaviour has a massive impact beyond the 21st century.”

That said, there are ways we can reduce our carbon footprint while travelling. Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International, explains that it’s not about “closing ourselves in and building a wall”. Zapata adds:

“We need to create bridges, and we need people to find solutions for the issues that we’re creating. Just because you’re sitting at home does not mean that you’re not producing carbon emissions.”

So what to do? For starters, change your habits and make practical choices to promote sustainability. It’s all about the mindset. Let’s look a few ways to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling.

Here are some tips:

Choose your mode of transport carefully

Transport generates the most greenhouse gas. When you have the option of travelling by plane, car, train or bus, choose wisely.

The International Council on Clean Transportation has calculated the passenger miles per gallon (pmpg) of planes and trains at a consistent 45 pmpg and 51 pmpg, respectively. Greyhounds and other inter-urban busses clock in at 152 pmpg.

If you have no other option other than travelling by plane – the worst offender of them all – there are still a few ways you could minimise your carbon footprint.

Choose direct flights where possible and skip the layovers. By buying carbon offsets through Climate Action Reserve, you can ensure that a tree is planted or a stretch of ocean is cleaned up.

Once you’ve reached your destination, limit the amount of time you travel by car as much as possible. When travelling, hire a bicycle instead or explore on foot.

Pack light, fly light

By carrying lightweight equipment and supplies, you exert less force, especially when travelling by vehicle. The lighter, the better.

When on an airplane – or any other mode of transport – carries heavy luggage, it uses more fuel. If you can travel with only a carry-on, do consider it. Not only will it save you time at the check-in counter, but it’s also easier to move around once you get to your destination.

Yours truly is a firm believer in the one-bag-travel mantra, and I’m constantly looking for ways to travel even lighter. I can fit two weeks worth of supplies into a 30L duffle backpack with room to spare.

  • Don’t pack an outfit for every day and don’t be lazy. Pack 2 or 3 shirts, 2 or 3 pants and wash as you need. Polyester dries a lot faster than cotton and should be dry again by morning.
  • Downscale your gadgets. Why travel with a 15 or 17″ laptop when you can get the same amount of work done a 10″ tablet with keyboard? It’s lighter, smaller and easier to haul around.
  • Collapsible and compact. Buy soap and shampoo sheets, they’re tiny and 50 x 2 cm sheets will last you quite a while. Get a travel towel. It’s under a R100 at most places and folds to the size of your fist.

Reduce your carbon footprint by generating less trash

If you haven’t heard about the Great Pacific garbage patch, prepare to be shocked. The mass of waste floating around the Pacific gyre spans about 1.6m square kilometres. It’s three times the size of France.

We have no other option but to refrain from using single-use plastics such as straws, takeaway coffee cups and plastic bags. Transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle takes some work but it’s easy enough to get the hang of.

When travelling, carry your own water bottle; a collapsible water bottle if you’re a one-bagger with limited space. Carry your own reusable shopping bag; they can usually be folded into a tiny ball and won’t take up too much space.

Carrying a small cutlery set with you will reduce the amount of plastic cutlery when ordering takeout. There’s a nifty little thing called a spork – spoon, knife and fork all in one – which is the perfect option for travelling foodies.

And, you know, when you’re out on your travels and you see a plastic bottle or a plastic bag lying around, it’s not going to kill you to pick up and recycle it properly. Most cities have recycling bins, we’re just too lazy to use it.

Save energy throughout your trip

Regardless of where you’re staying, don’t leave the lights and air conditioning on. Don’t think because you’re staying at a fancy hotel, it’s in order to leave the air conditioning on.

Central air conditioning units use 3.5 kilowatts per hour. If you were to turn it off for eight hours while you were out exploring, you would save 28 kilowatts. That’s the equivalent of more than 7.5 litres of fuel or charging 2 525 smartphones.

If you can, book through eco-friendly hotels as they save massive amounts of energy on everything from lighting to doing the laundry. Laundry accounts for 16% of an average hotel’s water usage. By cutting down on the laundry load, you’ll save water and other resources.

Happy traveling!

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: David Marcu [1], [2].

HSBC’s Expat Explorer Report 2019 Reveals Interesting Expat Insights

In HSBC’s latest Expat Explorer Report, the company reveals some interesting insights into expat life, and expat perceptions of various countries around the world.

The Expat Explorer Survey is aimed at providing people with information when they aren’t sure where they want to move, are trying to decide between a few countries, and want to compare their home country to those in which they’re interested.  To view the Survey’s results table, click here.

In the 2019 Survey, the top ranking countries were as follows:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Singapore
  3. Canada
  4. Spain
  5. New Zealand
  6. Australia
  7. Turkey
  8. Germany
  9. United Arab Emirates
  10. Vietnam

The countries were ranked according to criteria across 3 categories; Living (well-being and society), Aspiring (finances and ambition), and Little Expats (child-related factors).

Switzerland takes top position

Switzerland ranked highest overall, and has secured a position in the top 10 every year since 2011. An impressive 82% of expats in Switzerland have seen an improvement in their quality of life compared to their home country, with its stunning scenery a major contributing factor. Expats also praise Switzerland’s low levels of pollution, with 70% noting cleaner and more pleasant surroundings than they were used to at home. This is far higher than the global average with only 40% of all expats saying the same. Enhanced well-being doesn’t stop there. Home to Geneva, the City of Peace, Switzerland is renowned for its low crime rates and safe streets. Two-thirds (67%) of expats feel more secure there than in their home country.

Financial factors are where Switzerland continues to excel. Higher levels of disposable income are reported by 71% of expats, contributing to an average expat salary of $111,587, well above the global mean of $75,966. Expats also note the country’s remarkable levels of political and economic stability. In a year where almost half of expats globally (49%) are concerned about their country’s economic situation, only 20% in Switzerland have any such reservations, and 86% are relaxed about the country’s political status.

Expat life exceeds expectations for young professionals

Those who make the move abroad before their 35th birthday see the biggest boost in their pay packet and career potential, compared to older workers, leading to greater fulfillment and a securer financial future.

Almost half (47%) of young expats move abroad to further their career, and they are very much reaping the rewards. The majority (55%) become more confident while abroad, while more than seven in 10 (71%) learn new skills. They are also more likely to benefit from quicker promotions or move into a new career path entirely – with one in 10 even starting their own business after moving country.

Moving abroad early can also be the key to unlocking higher earnings. Four-fifths (80%) of young people aged under 35 years increase their earnings abroad. Expat Millennials can expect to see their income jump by over a third (35%), from an average global annual salary of $40,000 to just under $55,000. In comparison, for 35 to 54-year-olds, earnings increase by just under a quarter (24%), while the over 55s see a 9% increase.

With this increased windfall meaning more disposable income in the short-term, our data shows that Millennials are also thinking long-term. These expats told us home ownership was their top financial priority, with 45% of under 35s already on the property ladder.

Popular destinations for Millenials include Hong Kong, the USA, the UK, and Poland.

Tips from HSBC

The company notes that it is important to get ahead with as much admin as possible before departing. This includes not only organizing visas and sorting out financial matters and budgets, but also planning school applications and arranging healthcare services.

HSBC also suggests using the local language of your new home as soon as possible, and immersing yourself in the local culture, can allow you to develop a strong social circle and help you settle in faster. Joining interest-based clubs is one way to achieve this.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

How to Deal With Expat Burnout

This article is courtesy of Vivien Chiona at Expat Nest.

Most of us will be familiar with the word “burnout” but what does it actually mean, and how does it apply to us as expats? Here are some signs of expat burnout and some pointers to help bring back the spark to your international life.

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. It is more commonly understood in the context of work, but can also occur due to stresses in relationships, financial problems or other external factors. Expats can become vulnerable to burnout – or “change fatigue” – when the stresses of a transition-rich lifestyle begin to feel overwhelming and impact our everyday functioning.

Symptoms of expat burnout

The sense of exhaustion, frustration with your expat lifestyle and increasingly frequent thoughts of wanting to give up and return home can indicate that you are heading for or experiencing expat burnout. You may feel constantly tired, unmotivated, hopeless and/or overwhelmed, and experience anxiety at the thought of moving house or country again.

Expat burnout can occur at any stage of an expat experience: when you’re preparing to move (again) to another country, when you’ve just arrived and are setting up your new life, or during the daily routine of an established expat life. For many expats this feeling will pass, but for some it may persist.

Tips for dealing with burnout

If you are questioning your decision to join the expat culture and have lost your sense of purpose or motivation, these pointers are a good start to getting back on track. For colleagues, friends and family of expats, they may offer ways for you to support the expat in your life.

  • Look after yourself first – Make your self-care a priority. On aeroplanes we are asked to place our own oxygen mask in an emergency, before assisting others. Listen to your body and mind: if you feel exhausted and overwhelmed, it’s a sign to take some time out and to prioritise your needs.
  • Go with the feeling – Step back and accept that you feel the way you do. Recognise that this uncomfortable feeling is a sign that you are stretched beyond your limits right now. Know that in time you will recover and begin to feel like yourself again.
  • Get back to basics – Stability is a basic need and there are simple ways to create it in your expat lifestyle. For example, establish a weekly routine that feels right for you; set up a regular chat slot with loved ones back home (e.g. Sunday 6pm); or plan simple and nutritious meals for the week, so that your diet supports your health and energy needs. For those who can’t avoid a highly mobile lifestyle or frequent travel, find continuity through rituals – this can be as simple as having breakfast at the same time every day no matter where you are.
  • Explore your current city or a new place – It’s easy to stick to what we know, seeing the same people and places. Follow your curiosity and explore what is around you and further afield. Look about with new eyes. You might discover some gems to refresh your outlook on expat life.
  • Have kinder expectations of yourself – Stop doing the things that are undermining your sense of wellbeing or putting unrealistic pressure on you. Take back control by reorganising your life step by step. Ask yourself: does this really have to be done today, or can it wait until I have more energy?
  • Schedule time to relax – Make sure your to-do lists build in plenty of rest and downtime! Set some time aside each day to unwind and do something that nurtures your soul, such as joining a meditation class, jogging or going for a walk (find what works for you). Making this a part of your daily routine is key to supporting your wellbeing.

Many expats will feel stressed and despondent at some point. It is important to recognise the signs so that the negative state doesn’t overwhelm you and lead to burnout. If you need any guidance or somebody to explore your feelings with, please feel free to contact us for extra support. We are always here for you.

With thanks to Sophie Patrick for her contribution to this article.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Erwan Hesry [1], [2].