Six predictions for 2006 – and how they affect you

The wisest people usually don’t make predictions – probably because they know that trying to figure out what’s going to happen in the future is a fool’s game.

In a year’s time, people will be delighted to inform you how wrong your predictions were.

But… there are some trends in what I call the “living abroad” market right now that are interesting and are likely to continue in 2006.

And if you know what they are, you are in the best position to capitalise on them.

So… what the heck – let’s make some predictions.

1) Bonanza for skilled workers

Skills shortages in certain countries will get worse as the population ages and baby-boomers retire, leading to more opportunities for people to emigrate to those countries.

Hardly a month went by last year without one country or other telling the world that it was desperate for skilled workers and that it would try to open up the gates of immigration in order to let more skilled workers in.

Australia and Canada were top of the list, but so too were New Zealand, some European countries and even the UK.

And it’s likely to continue (and increase) in 2006.

Business will continue to press for the rules to be changed to allow more skilled people in, and local governments and, eventually, national governments will create systems that will better match skilled workers from abroad with available jobs.

So expect it to get easier to migrate to countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand – if you have skills that match the skills that are missing in these nations. There could be opportunities for anyone from truck drivers to IT specialists, to doctors, to tradespeople.

Wise potential migrants will keep an eye out for skills shortages and will get in early any visa and residency applications that are required.

2) Changes in the overseas property market

As house prices in the UK continue to rise only slowly (and maybe even fall) and the US housing market comes to a shuddering halt, the market for second homes in popular destinations such as Spain and France will slow.

With people feeling less cash-rich than they were, they will look increasingly at the cheaper property-buying destinations.

Expect more opportunities in places such as the Balkans (Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia), Eastern Europe… maybe even Morocco – as people search for bargains that simply cannot be had easily in France or Spain.

Property-owning foreigners will become an increasingly common sight in more far-flung (and traditionally unfashionable) places, leading to a rash of small business opportunities aimed at the local expatriate market.

Savvy potential migrants will get familiar with the languages of these destinations and be thinking of business opportunities for themselves there.

3) Eastern Europe becomes the hottest relocation destination

As the housing market changes and the new Eastern Europe member states settle into life in the European Union, expect more foreigners to make a new life there.

The business process outsourcing industry will boom in places such as Poland and maybe even Ukraine, leading to a requirement for native English speakers to manage call centres and IT operations, as happened in India a year or two ago.

Nations such as the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will become increasingly popular places to live as they become some of the most modern, high-tech and trendy countries in Europe.

Smart potential migrants will get the skills and knowledge that will allow them to position themselves at the front of the queue when jobs are on offer in these places.

4) Budget airlines roulette

Budget airlines are here to stay – but some people will have their lives turned upside down as destinations come and go.

People will continue to make destination choices based on budget airline flight patterns, reaping the benefit of flights around Europe that, if booked early enough, are cheaper than a train trip at home.

And more people will choose a commuting lifestyle – working in London (for example) and commuting each weekend to a more relaxing life in France, Spain or maybe places such as Slovenia and Latvia.

But budget airlines will from time to time pull out of various regional airports, leaving stranded the people who have invested in property there.

Savvy migrants will keep their options open, and not rely on the whims of one airline.

5) People will create more of their own opportunities abroad

A trend that has been growing slowly over the past three years will continue in 2006.

More and more people will turn their backs on the world of employment by big, faceless companies and will start their own businesses.

With the opportunities afforded by the internet and cheap, often free, telephone calls, more people will be able to work at home – even if that home is in another country.

Savvy potential migrants will start to think about businesses they can create at home – and then take with them when they move. They’ll learn skills that will benefit them in business, no matter where they are. And they’ll consider how the skills they have learned at work can be transformed into a business they can take abroad.

Opportunities will continue to open up in the fields of marketing, writing, design, consulting, coaching and international trading that will allow people to use their skills to make ends meet in a destination of their choice.

“Mini-preneurs” – people who start their own business on a shoestring thanks to the ease of entry afforded by the internet – will turn into “expat-preneurs” who start their own business abroad.

Watch this space for the expat-preneur. You heard it here first.

6) The skilled will flourish – the unskilled will stay at home

This is the one prediction that unites all the rest.

The future abroad will be open to those people with the right skills – whether it be languages, professional skills, skills in the trades or business skills.

These will be the people who will be able to create their own opportunities abroad, have a greater choice of destination and build the happiest, most successful life abroad.

Savvy potential migrants – and even those already abroad – will start building their skills. Starting today.

Well, there you have it. Let me know what you think.