Singapore still top for expat "liveability"

While Singapore has topped the rankings for the 15th year in a row, which other global cities rank highly for quality of life for expats?

Indoor waterfall at Singapore airport
For the 15th year in a row, Singapore has topped the 'liveability' rankings for Asian expatriates in the annual survey by global mobility specialists ECA International.Meanwhile, in Europe, Copenhagen and Bern share top spot in a survey that assesses 490 cities worldwide, taking into consideration factors such as:
  • climate;
  • health services;
  • housing and utilities;
  • natural phenomena;
  • isolation;
  • access to a social network and leisure facilities;
  • infrastructure;
  • personal safety;
  • political tensions;
  • and air quality.

Hong Kong protests damage quality of life ranking

The effect of some of these factors has led to some dramatic falls in this year's 'ECA Location Ratings', particularly as far as Hong Kong is concerned, which has dropped by more than 50 places to 93rd in the Asian rankings.“The scale of Hong Kong’s fall in our rankings is unprecedented and is a consequence of ongoing socio-political tensions in the city,” said Lee Quane, Asian regional director at ECA.“Not only are the heightened political tensions worrying for expatriates living in the region, the protests that have regularly taken place since mid-2019 have had a negative effect on areas of everyday life, which are often taken for granted. This includes disruptions to Hong Kong’s transportation infrastructure and an increase in crime rates since the protests began.”

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Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Australian cities saw liveability scores worsen, mainly due to an increased risk of terrorism. Even so, all seven Australian cities in the list - led by Brisbane and Sydney - remained in the top 30 destinations for Asian expats.

Vietnam and Thailand and expat liveability

By contrast, Thai and Vietnamese cities all saw significant improvements in their rankings. “Liveability has improved in Thai and Vietnamese locations due to the economic growth that both countries are currently seeing," said Mr Quane."As Vietnam develops and invests in better infrastructure, living standards have improved for locals and expatriates in the country. As for the Thai locations in our list, the success of the recent peaceful democratic elections implies that cities in the country have seen an improvement in the political situation as well."

What is the best place to live in Europe for an expat?

Meanwhile in Europe, The Hague, Geneva and Eindhoven rounded off the top five places assessed as the best for expats. The Netherlands and Switzerland each had four cities in the continent's top 20.“Northern European cities in places such as Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Switzerland, have consistently scored well for expat liveability," said Neil Ashman, senior location ratings analyst at ECA."Excellent transport links, a high standard of healthcare and long-term political stability, mean that overseas workers from elsewhere in Europe can adapt to these locations with ease.”Dublin came in ninth on the European rankings while Edinburgh - joint 19th with Stockholm - was the highest rated UK city. Aberdeen stood at 21, Cardiff at 24, Manchester at 39, Belfast and London joint 47, and Glasgow at 55.“Pollution, crime rate and terrorism threats are among the factors that affect the liveability of major UK cities," said Mr Ashman.

Which cities in North America are rated best for expats?

Elsewhere, the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver are the highest ranked non-European locations on the list, beating major European capitals such as Madrid, Berlin and even London for liveability.Cities in the United States saw mixed fortune this year, with New York and San Francisco rising in the rankings after improvements to their liveability scores. However, other cities such as Boston have experienced drops.“New York and San Francisco have both jumped in our rankings due to a drop in violent crime in recent years, making it safer for expatriates to travel freely around the cities," reported ECA."On the other hand, our research into expatriate liveability in Boston indicated that there is greater competition for housing available for overseas workers as a result of the country’s booming economy. This has impacted the city’s overall liveability score as a result.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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