Singapore among top 10 places to live and work for expats: Survey

Singapore ranked 9th in this year's list of good places to live and work for expatriates.
Singapore ranked 9th in this year's list of good places to live and work for expatriates.PHOTO: ST FILE

MUNICH (BLOOMBERG) - Singapore edged into the top 10 in a list of good places to live and work for expatriates, while reputations of the United States and United Kingdom are in free fall among some of the world's most mobile and cosmopolitan people.

The Expat Insider survey - conducted each year by InterNations - ranked Singapore on the ninth spot in this year's list, a jump of four places from 2016. Regional rival Hong Kong was on 39th spot, while Taiwan slipped to No. 4 from top spot last year.

The survey by InterNations, a network of 2.8 million expats, aims to capture the views of millions of executives, skilled workers, students and retirees who live outside the country where they grew up.

Since last year's presidential and Brexit votes, both the US and Britain have been  perceived as less friendly to foreigners and less politically stable, according to a survey of almost 13,000 expatriates of 166 nationalities.

Expats say the US and the UK's quality of life is declining by other measures, especially the affordability of childcare and healthcare in the US and housing in the UK.

The top-ranked country in 2017 is Bahrain, given high marks by its expats as a place to work and raise a family and for making foreigners feel welcome.

It vastly outranks Persian Gulf neighbours such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which ranked in the bottom 10 of the 65 countries in the survey.

Greece was at the very bottom of the list, weighed down by the country's economic problems. Australia, which ranked in the top 10 last year, dropped more than any other country, to 34th place.

Expats' ratings of jobs, career prospects, work hours and work-life balance all dropped. 

One of the expats' favourite places to work is China, where two-thirds of respondents are happy with their careers. But China ranks 55th out of 65 spots overall because of quality of life. Expats, especially those with children, are concerned about the severe pollution and the quality and cost of healthcare and education.

The UK ranks 54th, down 21 places from last year's survey, after its June 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Before the referendum, 77 per cent of expats in the UK had a favourable opinion of the nation's political stability - down to 47 per cent this year.  (The survey was conducted in February and March, before the most recent British election.) Just half of expats say the UK has a good attitude towards foreign residents, compared to 67 per cent worldwide.

Expats in Britain have also soured on its economy. The weak pound and higher inflation put the UK 59th for personal finance. Almost two-thirds of its expats have an unfavourable opinion of its cost of living, with 69 per cent unhappy with the affordability of housing.

The US seems to have lost some lustre after a year of political volatility, said Malte Zeeck, a founder and co-chief executive officer of InterNations. Just 36 per cent of expats have a positive opinion of America's political stability, down from 68 per cent in last year's survey.

Overall, the US is ranked 43rd of 65 contenders, 17 places lower than last year. But its reputation was already falling before the election results came in. As recently as 2014's survey, the US was No. 5. One bright spot is that 69 per cent of expats have a favourable view of the American economy.

There are about 50 million expats worldwide, according to market research by Finaccord, and the number is expected to hit 60 million over the next five years. They often have a choice of where they want to live, and their opinions matter to countries that want to attract talented and affluent people.