Singapore is the best country in the world to live as an expatriate for the fourth year in a row, according to a new report from HSBC Bank. The study is based on survey results of more than 22,000 expats from many different home countries who live and work abroad. Ranking for each country is based on three overall factor groups: experience (quality of life, safety, etc.), economics (income, politics, etc.), and families (education, healthcare, etc.)
HSBC studied people who are locally employed or posted indefinitely to a full-time job at a competitive salary. Results have essentially nothing to do with desirability as a visitor destination, nor do they reflect desirability for retirement specific to U.S. or Canadian income—but they do suggest where the world’s expats are happiest.
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The 5 Best Countries for Expats
Each of the three broad scoring groups includes nine specific factors, some of which enter into more than one group:
- The Economics factors include disposable income, wage growth, savings, economic confidence, entrepreneurship, politics, career progression, work/life balance, and job security.
- The Experience group includes quality of life, culture, health, making friends, integration, safety, finance, healthcare, and property.
- The Family group includes integration, health, quality of life, overall cost of children, childcare quality, school quality, closeness with partner, social life, and tolerance.
Thinking (or simply daydreaming) about moving abroad? Here’s how each of the top countries ranked, and which areas they excelled in.
First Place: Singapore
As you might expect, to come out on top Singapore ranked high for all three factor groups—but it did especially well in economics. Its only low economic ranking is for work/life balance: It’s a good place for workaholics. Singapore’s experience rankings are high for most individual factors, but low for culture, making friends, and integration. Its family rankings are good for every individual factor other than overall cost of children, where it ranks very low. But the high paying jobs might help with those affordability issues.
Second: New Zealand
New Zealand‘s high ranking reflects its position as excellent for family, where the only low-ranking factor is social life. It also ranks high in the experience group, with property as the only low ranking area. It loses ground, however, in the economics group, with low rankings scores for disposable income, wage growth, and savings.
Germany earns a high ranking for economics, doing well in all of the individual factors. It does reasonably well in the family group, with low ratings only for integration and social life: To get along, learn the language and try to fit in. Experience rankings are in the midrange for most experience elements, but low for making friends and property.
A high place for Canada should come as no surprise to residents of North America: It enjoys many of the features of the U.S. while suffering from comparatively fewer quality-of-life problems. In some ways, therefore, a less-than-top ranking for experiences is somewhat of a surprise, although the only truly low-ranking factor is making friends. Canada does well in the economics group, with mediocre positions only for disposable income and savings. Canada’s is a good place for most family factors, but not as much for closeness with partner and social life.
This small Middle Eastern nation has long been a relative island of calm among its fractious neighbors. Bahrain’s economics rankings are good to excellent except for economic confidence—probably a reflection more of its neighborhood than of the kingdom itself. The experience rankings are mostly high, except for low positions in culture, health, and integration.
Other Top Expat Countries
The remaining overall rankings, in decreasing order, are: Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, France, India, Indonesia, Spain, Malaysia, Mexico, Hong Kong, Ireland, Vietnam, Russia, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Turkey, Poland, Saudi Arabia, China, Philippines, South Africa, Japan, and Brazil.
Countries on the upswing, gaining four or more places in 2018 over 2017 include Bahrain, which jumped from 9 to 5; France, from 16 to 11; Indonesia, 19 to 13; Ireland, with the biggest jump to 28 from 18, and the United Kingdom, from 27 to 22. The top losers are Hong Kong, which fell from 13 to 17; Thailand, from 15 to 21; Poland, from 21 to 25; Philippines had the biggest drop, from 17 to 28; South Africa went from 25 to 29, and Japan fell from 22 to 30.
The full report includes lots of additional information about each country.
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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.