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Protect yourself from the rising costs of living

You can’t have missed it – almost everything we use and consume is suddenly costing a lot more than it used to. It’s also having a marked impact on internationals abroad.

Protect yourself from the rising costs of living
Worried about rising costs? It's not just you -- prices are soaring across the globe. We find out why. Photo: Getty Images

Almost everyone has felt the effects of sudden cost of living increases, and for many it has had real consequences on where and how they live and work.

With soaring energy bills and increases in both food and petrol, consumer inflation in Europe hit 8.6 percent in June and could reach nine percent by the end of the summer. Those who moved abroad to work or study have felt the effects particularly keenly.

Together with the international health insurance provider, AXA – Global Healthcare, we investigate why costs have soared so quickly, and exactly how this impacts those who have made another country their home. 

What is driving the increase in living costs? 

While there’s no singular reason that living costs are increasing across the globe, there are several factors that we can point to as contributing to the problem. 

First and foremost, the coronavirus pandemic had a devastating effect on manufacturing industries and supply chains around the world. Worker illness, government shutdowns and disruptions to the supply of essential resources dealt a significant blow to global GDP in 2020, resulting in a fall of more than three percent. 

Restarting manufacturing and global logistics after months of effective shutdown subsequently led to a substantial rise in the costs of goods, as supply struggled to keep up with surging demand. Even with massive investment in logistics infrastructure, to date there are still lengthy delays supplying goods such as machine parts and electronics, leading to surging business costs.

Climate change has also played a role in the crisis. The increasing unpredictability of weather patterns over the past two years has meant that many regions around the world were impacted by severe weather events, including several in Europe. An increased incidence of heat waves and cold snaps have also placed a strain on gas reserves, leading to escalating power bills. 

One way to offset cost of living increases is by ensuring you are safe from unforeseen medical costs. Take a look at AXA’s range of policies designed specifically for internationals

Of course, the war in Ukraine is having a serious impact on the cost of living, most noticeably in Europe. The World Bank has suggested it could be responsible for the biggest price shock in 50 years. As a major agricultural nation, wheat prices have begun to sharply increase following the invasion, as has the price of natural gas – Ukraine holds Europe’s second-largest reserve of the resource.

Another consequence of the Ukraine war is spiralling fuel prices. As Russia is one of the world’s top three oil exporters, its current frosty relationship with the West means that the cost of oil per barrel will remain elevated. Coupled with logistical delays in delivering gas and fuel, as an ongoing consequence of the pandemic, consumers and businesses are experiencing substantially increased transport costs. 

Boiling point: Climate change is one factor increasing the cost of living. Photo: Getty Images

How do rising costs impact internationals? 

The cost of living crisis is having a significant effect on the mental health of internationals. Research by AXA – Global Healthcare, in the form of its Mind Health Index 2022 supports this idea. 

Its research, conducted prior to the current crisis, indicated that 28 percent of non-native (international) participants rated their stress level between eight and 10 (out of 10), while 35 percent of non-natives said that financial stability was an issue causing stress. Thirty-nine percent of non-native participants believed that they faced an uncertain future when it comes to work and finances – a massive stressor, regardless of where you may be. 

The causes of this are also clearly identifiable. Primarily, many internationals simply do not have the assets to sustain repeated price shocks in terms of food or energy costs. A survey conducted by market research firm, Finaccord, found that approximately three-quarters of internationals worldwide are individual workers – ie. depending on a single income.

A further third are also students, meaning that they are paying tuition costs while trying to support themselves, whether with a local job or payments from home. Quite simply, many internationals cannot afford to pay much more for necessities, particularly at a time when wages have stagnated. 

Many internationals also lack the kind of support networks that would let them otherwise overcome economic turmoil. Earlier research by AXA revealed that 87 percent of participating internationals felt isolated and cut off from family and friends, who would otherwise be able to assist and share costs.

As a consequence, further research conducted in 2019 by AXA – Global Healthcare revealed that one in five participating internationals would return home should prices continue to rise – even though over 50 percent reported that they enjoyed a better salary and quality of life than they did at home.

The research also discovered that housing and tuition costs comprised the hardest financial pressures for internationals – with 51 percent identifying rent and housing costs, and 40 percent identifying education as more costly than expected. 

It could be stated, therefore, that prior to the global spike in the cost of living, internationals already found themselves in a tight spot, with the threat of having to return home looming over them. Now, with skyrocketing prices, excessive and prolonged stress is an even greater contributor to a range of illnesses. 

Internationals are more prone to sudden increases in costs of living. To ensure some certainty, explore health insurance options from the experts on living abroad, AXA

Securing an international future

Moving abroad to start a new life is a costly endeavour and one that many work for years to achieve. It’s worth it, however: the experience of working or studying abroad is suggested to have a number of economic and lifestyle benefits.

That said, navigating the financial stresses of rising costs can be challenging. 

Many internationals opt to offset the challenges of rising costs with comprehensive health insurance coverage. AXA – Global Healthcare’s research shows that a quarter of internationals worry about the cost of healthcare in their new home, and would even travel abroad to seek treatment. 

Depending on where you are, unforeseen medical costs can run into the tens of thousands, meaning the difference between getting by, and having to return to your home country.

If you’re seeking a health insurance provider that offers comprehensive coverage and a range of useful benefits, you may want to consider AXA – Global Healthcare. Operating globally, the company has over 55 years of experience in covering those living and working abroad¹.

AXA – Global Healthcare policyholders get 24-7 care from personal advisors, connecting them with excellent private healthcare from a worldwide network of doctors, surgeons and specialists.

Outside of emergency care, AXA – Global Healthcare provides a number of additional benefits. Policyholders are able to access a number of annual check ups. Special care is available to those diagnosed with cancer, and mental health issues aren’t ignored – the AXA – Global Healthcare Mind Health Service¹ means that you have professionals for support wherever you may be. 

As an international, dealing with the rising costs of living can be difficult. However, you can ensure that should something happen to you, you can avoid unexpected financial burdens.

Furthermore, with AXA – Global Healthcare’s range of additional services, you can make sure health problems are identified before they become a problem, allowing you to focus on living, working and enjoying life abroad. 

Find out more about AXA’s Virtual Doctor service, mental health support and other services offered so you can enjoy life abroad with the knowledge that you’re fully covered

¹AXA has been providing International Private Medical Insurance for over 55 years

²The Mind Health Service is provided by Teladoc Health,

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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IMMIGRATION

How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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