Singapore remains the most liveable location for Asian expatriates as Hong Kong continues a steady downward slide

15 February, 2019

Singapore is once again the most liveable location for Asian expatriates, having claimed the top spot every year since ECA’s liveability rankings began in 2005. This was one of the conclusions of the latest Location Ratings survey published by global mobility experts, ECA International.

A number of factors make Singapore the ideal location, according to the ECA International survey, such as access to great facilities, low crime rates, good quality healthcare and education, as well as a large expat population already living their.

“Although many cities in Asia offer similar benefits to overseas workers, Singapore remains the top location and doesn’t look like dropping in the rankings any time soon,” notes Lee Quane, regional director - Asia at ECA International.

Updated annually, ECA's Location Ratings system objectively evaluates a host of factors to form an assessment of the overall quality of living in over 480 locations worldwide. The system helps companies establish appropriate allowances to compensate employees for the adjustment required when going on international assignment.

Factors assessed include climate; availability of health services; housing and utilities; natural phenomena; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions; and air quality. The impact of some of the factors assessed vary according to the home location of the assignee.

While Singapore retains its position in the ranking, Hong Kong has dropped twelve places and is now only the joint 41st most liveable city for expats coming from elsewhere in East Asia. This has clearly been influenced by the disruption and considerable damage caused by Typhoon Mangkhut in Sep-2018, the most devastating storm experienced by Hong Kong since records began.

“The cost of the resulting damage to buildings and infrastructure is estimated to be around USD1 billion and therefore, Hong Kong’s liveability score has changed to reflect the difficulties caused by Typhoon Mangkhut,” acknowledges Mr Quane.

Hong Kong’s fall down the liveability rankings was the greatest of all locations surveyed in Asia and second in scale across the globe only to Managua, in Nicaragua, which experienced significant socio-political change in 2018. The fall also marks the continuation of a long-term trend though, which has seen it steadily fall from its highest ranking of 11th place in 2013.

Meanwhile, many Chinese cities continue to rise in the liveability rankings, reflecting a long-term trend as many locations in the country continue to develop. Beijing, Nanjing and Xiamen have all seen their scores improve this year, along with many others.

“Despite rapid improvements to infrastructure, the one downside for many Chinese cities has been excessive levels of air pollution which have negatively impacted the quality of life. However, in recent years the Chinese authorities have introduced measures to combat air pollution and these efforts are translating into improvements in their rankings,” says Mr Quane.

The majority of Malaysian and Thai locations saw their scores improve and rose in the liveability rankings too. Bangkok is the highest rated Thai city, sitting in 89th place, whilst George Town and Kuala Lumpur have risen to 97th and 98th in the rankings respectively.

“Both Thailand and Malaysia continue to develop and improve their infrastructure which has seen their liveability scores steadily improve over recent years. In particular, advances in road and transport infrastructure have improved access to areas in these countries that were once considered far more remote,” says Mr Quane.

Japanese cities continue to perform strongly, with all four of the Japanese locations (Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Yokohama) included in the rankings featuring in the top ten. This is despite Osaka’s score dropping slightly due to the effects of Typhoon Jebi, which caused significant damage to the city.

The only other Asian location to experience a drop in their liveability ranking as significant as Hong Kong was Colombo in Sri Lanka which fell twelve places to 194th overall, likely driven by considerable political instability over recent months owing to a constitutional crisis over the Prime Minister’s position.

Outside of Asia, the ECA International survey highlights cities in Australia and New Zealand as offering the best quality of living for Asian workers, with Brisbane and Sydney joint second in the rankings. Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is the most liveable European location for Asian expats, and joint tenth overall.