Chapter Eight - Measures taken by other countries regarding their expatriates
The Committee received evidence regarding measures
taken by other countries in addressing the issues surrounding their
expatriates. Earlier chapters of this report have already addressed how some other
countries deal with arrangements for voting by expatriates in elections (Chapter
5), and census policy and counting the number of expatriates (Chapter 3).
This chapter looks further at some measures taken by
other countries in dealing with expatriates, including:
- legislative representation of expatriates;
- representative bodies for expatriates, sponsored
- identification cards;
- award schemes;
- schemes to encourage the return of expatriates;
- other measures.
Legislative representation of expatriates
The Committee received evidence of several countries
that provide for some form of representation of expatriates in their national
The upper house of the French Parliament, the Senat,
includes 12 senators elected to represent the interests of expatriates. The
senators are elected indirectly by French expatriates, who initially elect 150
members of the Senior Council of the French Abroad, who in turn elect the 12
Parliament includes four seats for representatives of Portuguese expatriates.
Expatriates vote by mail for representatives in two 'emigration constituencies',
'Europe' and 'outside Europe'. The legislature of Croatia
also has seats reserved for expatriates' representatives. Since 2001, Italy
has allowed voters abroad to register and vote for 12 representatives in its
lower house of Parliament and six in the upper house.
Some submissions suggested that Australia
too should have a special overseas electorate or dedicated seats for Australian
suggested that a special Senate seat could be created to represent overseas
Australians. However, one
expatriate was not supportive of the idea of special representation:
I am aware that there have been suggestions in the past that
expatriates should have ‘reserved’ seats in Parliament, but in my view this
could lead to resentment on the part of the broader electorate that
non-residents could perhaps have great influence on the outcome of an election (especially
in a close result). This might only lead to the marginalisation of the views of
expatriates when the aim is to bring them into the mainstream.
The JSCEM report, The
2001 Federal Election, considered proposals made to that Committee
regarding the creation of an overseas electorate to represent expatriate
Australians. The Committee notes
that the JSCEM report raised a number of concerns with the proposal for a
special overseas electorate, including constitutional issues. The AEC's submission to that inquiry
noted that legal opinion would need to be sought on whether the proposal would
be achievable under the Constitution, and that a referendum may be necessary. The Committee notes that
constitutional change in Australia
has been historically difficult to achieve.
Expatriates' representative bodies sponsored by government
Expatriates all over the world get together to form
groups in order to further particular aims, such as social interaction,
exchange of information, increased economic opportunities and advocacy. Most of
these groups receive no government support. The Committee received evidence of
a number of countries where governments do play a role in sponsoring and/or
funding bodies set up to represent the interests of expatriates.
French expatriates are represented by the Senior
Council of the French Abroad, which was established by the French Government in
1948. This organisation includes
150 members elected by electorally-registered French expatriates, and acts as
an advisory body attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is this
Council which elects the 12 senators to the French Senat who have responsibility for
representing the interests of expatriates, as mentioned previously.
The SCG advised that the Council comprises a permanent
office and a number of committees, and its members can be elected to some
national boards. The Council also reports to the French Government on its
research into problems that affect French expatriates.
The SCG put up this type of representative body as a
model that Australia
may wish to consider for an Australian equivalent body, but without the
provisions in the French body for election of expatriate-dedicated members to
the French Senat.
the government-initiated World Council of Helenes Abroad is a coordinating body
which looks after the interests of Greek expatriates. The body is independent
of the Greek Government, but its activities are overseen by the General
Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, a public body which is answerable to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The
Secretariat is well-staffed, with a number of divisions to address the issues
of expatriates in different parts of the world.
The principal aims of the Secretariat include
maintenance of the cultural and ethnic identity of Greek expatriates, and
ensuring the smooth reintegration of Greek expatriates who return to Greece. The Secretariat plans and implements
policy initiatives for its expatriates, and also:
- provides economic assistance to organisations of
- sponsors and publishes scientific research on
expatriate issues; and
- provides information to returning Greek
expatriates on issues such as pensions, insurance, and legal and other issues
that may be of concern in the repatriation process.
Some submissions noted the approach taken in Switzerland. There the Council of the Swiss
Abroad (a private foundation, but largely funded by the Swiss Government)
represents the interests of Swiss expatriates in dealings with Swiss
authorities and parliament, and provides various services. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad
publishes (six times a year) the 'Swiss Review – Magazine for the Swiss Abroad',
which is sent to all Swiss expatriates registered with their consulates. This
publication provides legal information and news from Switzerland,
and provides a vehicle for the Swiss Government to include their expatriate
citizens in the national mainstream.
Reeb gave information regarding other
activities of the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad:
The Organisation for Swiss Abroad provides direct advice and
input to the parliament on matters pertaining to the 10% of the Swiss
population who reside overseas.
They provide a central link to Swiss government departments,
services, Consuls etc, internationally based social and professional clubs for
submitted that Australia
could learn from the Swiss example, and emphasised the positive outcomes and
connectivity that could result from adopting such an approach:
... the flow of information will improve connectivity with home,
so that it becomes a win-win situation, both for the expatriates themselves, so
that the sense of isolation is minimised, as well as for government agencies in
trying to keep expatriates informed of their rights and obligations and their
ability to make best use of the skills and offerings expatriates can provide.
a dedicated research facility, the Centre for the Study of the Indian Diaspora,
has been established at the University
of Hyderabad. The Indian Government issues an
identity card for 'Persons of Indian Origin'. This card is discussed further later
in this chapter.
The Committee notes the initiative of the Indian
Government's Ministry of External Affairs in appointing a 'High Level Committee
on the Indian Diaspora', which reported in 2001 after examining the issues
surrounding its own expatriates, and looking at measures taken by other
countries. The Indian Committee found that there would be great benefit from
the establishment of a 'single window contact mechanism' for dealing with
expatriates and to meet their needs, rather than forcing expatriates to deal
with the 'maze' of Indian bureaucracy.
with a long history of emigration, has recognised the possible benefits of
attracting skilled expatriates to return, and has attempted to develop a
database of expatriates and their skills.
recognises that many of its emigrants to Britain
are in need of welfare support, and the Irish Government provides grants to
assist voluntary organisations who provide services to these expatriates. In 2001 the Irish Government set up
a 'Task Force on Policy regarding Emigrants' to develop a coherent long-term
approach to Irish emigrants and their needs.
The report of the Task Force entitled Ireland
and the Irish Abroad recommended:
The adoption of a strategic and integrated approach to meeting
the needs of the Irish Abroad which includes policy objectives, an action plan
and the necessary structures and resources to achieve these ends.
Specific recommendations included the establishment of
a new structure within the Department of Foreign Affairs, the "Agency for
the Irish Abroad", to coordinate the provision of services for Irish
expatriates. Also recommended was the allocation of increased funding to
voluntary agencies and programs abroad which provide welfare services to Irish
people who are vulnerable or excluded, and the establishment of an awards
scheme to recognise Irish people abroad.
Information available suggests that none of the recommendations have been
implemented, with the Irish Government
citing budgetary constraints.
The governments in several other countries are involved
in some way with representative expatriate organisations. The following
information outlines some of the arrangements for a sample of countries:
- In Italy, the government-initiated General
Council of Italians Abroad, which is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
advises the Italian Government on issues affecting Italian expatriates, and
prepares an annual report which is presented to Parliament. The Italian Government also
encourages a network of 'Committees of Italians Abroad', which, amongst other
things, promotes cultural and economic ties with Italy.
- Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes a
special cell to handle issues relating to Japanese expatriates. The Japanese Government holds annual
conferences in Tokyo in relation to Japanese people living abroad.
- South Korea has a 'Committee of Korean Residents
Abroad', which includes the Prime Minister and other ministers amongst its 15
members. The 'Overseas Koreans
Foundation', a statutory body, holds conferences for expatriates and has
websites for expatriates. As well as promoting cultural linkages, the Korean
body has a focus on involving its expatriates in the economic development of
- Poland acknowledges its expatriates in its
Constitution, which obliges the Polish Government to help Poles living abroad
to maintain their links with Poland's cultural heritage. The Ministry of
Foreign Affairs includes a Department for Polonia (the Polish expatriate
community) which disseminates information on developments within Poland and
encourages maintenance of cultural and economic links. Both houses of the
Polish Parliament have committees dedicated to addressing issues relating to
The Committee notes that many of the countries which
have formal arrangements for dealing with expatriates are countries that either
have a long history of emigration, or are developing countries that have a
strong interest in encouraging expatriates to contribute financially or
professionally to expanding the economy of the home country.
Identification cards for expatriates
The SCG drew the Committee's attention to the Indian
Government strategy of issuing an identification card to 'Persons of Indian
Origin'. The Person of Indian Origin card (PIO card)
is issued to expatriate Indians (and their children, spouses and others) who
are holders of passports of another country. The card entitles the holder to
some concessions, including the waiver of the requirement for a visa to enter India,
parity with 'non-resident Indians' regarding transfer of property, and special
counters at immigration entry points.
Individuals are required to register for the card, and pay a fee (currently
AU$570 for applicants in Australia).
The Committee notes the suggestion of the SCG that
consideration be given to the development of an identification card for
Australian expatriates. However, as mentioned earlier in this report, the great
majority of expatriate Australians do not currently register with DFAT's online
register of Australians overseas. There may be a reluctance to register for any
identification card, for a number of reasons. The Committee does not support
Awards for expatriates
Some countries have schemes for making special awards
to their expatriates. In 2003, New Zealand
instituted the annual 'World Class New Zealander Award' to recognise expatriate
New Zealanders making an outstanding contribution to the economic development
of the country. The award is
sponsored by government agency Industry New Zealand, and
is in association with the 'World Class New Zealander Programme', which aims at
developing business talent in New Zealand.
has a scheme for decorating distinguished persons of Lebanese origin who have
settled in other countries. The Philippines
recognises expatriates who have made a contribution to the welfare of fellow
expatriates by making awards of a small monetary gift, and free tickets to
visit their home country.
The SCG has advocated the establishment of an award for
'Australian Expatriate of the Year', arguing that:
The creation and announcement of a new “Expatriate Australian of
the Year” award could be used as a launching pad for improved activities with
regard to the Australian diaspora. It would be a symbolic gesture and the event
could mark the beginning of formal recognition of the Australian diaspora.
Expatriate Australian Ms
supported the idea of an award, submitting that:
Expatriate Australian of the Year - a fantastic idea for
expatriates as well as those remaining in Australia. It would show them that expats can really
contribute to Australia,
not detract from it.
The Committee considers there would be some merit in
recognising the achievement of Australian expatriates.
Schemes to encourage the return of expatriates
Some submissions to the Committee gave information
regarding schemes in other countries to encourage the return of expatriates to
their home country, including schemes that offer financial incentives. The
submission of AustCham Beijing advised that China
has policies to encourage and fund skilled and educated expatriates to return
home to establish businesses. Some
Chinese provinces offer a range of incentives to encourage return migration,
including generous salary packages and expense paid trips.
The Australian and New Zealand Business Association in Taiwan
informed the Committee of financial incentives offered by some countries:
... a range of tax benefits, scholarships, are being offered by
newly industrialized countries like Israel, China, Malaysia, Ireland etc. They
may cover land concessions, investment subsidies and a range of incentives for
starting new business. They are provided to entice expatriate talents back to
the home country to generate new job opportunities.
questioned the merit of financial incentives as a way of encouraging the return
of expatriates, suggesting that it would be preferable to create a favourable
environment for returning:
... there may be ways of matching particular needs in the
Australian economy with particular Australians overseas and then creating an
environment which makes it favourable for them to come back.
referred to return migration policies in some European countries, telling the
Committee of policies which:
... almost entirely are targeted at specific groups: people with
particular skills which are seen to be in demand in the economy. They are
almost talent search type programs rather than return migration types of
programs. Certainly European countries are engaging in this process in a very
One submission gave the example of operating grants
given to Canadian researchers, which had the effect of encouraging Canadians to
develop their professional careers in Canada.
Mr James Danckert,
an Australian neuroscientist living in Canada,
felt there was a large imbalance between the funding accorded to elite athletes
and funding for scientific research. He submitted that:
Were Australia to redress this kind of imbalance and start
funding researchers at a level that would allow them to produce their best work
and compete on the international stage I have no doubt I would return in an
The Committee notes that various schemes are already in
place in Australia
to encourage the return of academics, such as the Federation Fellowship scheme
and the Queensland Government Smart Returns Fellowship Scheme. These and other
approaches are discussed in Chapter 9, while the broader issue of general
repatriation incentives was considered in Chapter 6.
Registers of expatriates
Some countries attempt to maintain registers of their
citizens living abroad, for various reasons, including facilitating protection,
especially during times of crisis. After criticism of its failure to
efficiently identify how many of its nationals were killed or injured in the
events of September 11 2001
in the US, the Japanese
Government is setting up a new agency to keep track of its expatriates and keep
them informed during crises. Ireland
has attempted to develop a database of expatriates and their skills.
As noted in Chapter 3, DFAT currently maintains an online
register of Australians overseas for Australians living, and travelling,
overseas. As also noted, it is estimated that only 14 per cent of Australians
residing overseas choose to register, for various reasons. Privacy issues are a
factor to consider in the development of any registers.
Measures to facilitate economic development
For some countries, remittances by expatriates are an
important source of development funds. Several countries are considering
measures such as preferential banking advantages and high interest rates to
capture more foreign exchange from their expatriates.
Direct investment by expatriates in home country
enterprises is important in countries such as China
where recent economic growth has been strongly influenced by investment from a
large number of expatriates.
From the submissions received, the Committee is aware
that many of its expatriates maintain investments in Australia.
The approaches of InvestAustralia, as considered in Chapter 9, may encourage
more to do likewise.