12 October 2018

The Lion City continues to roar for expats – but will it continue?

Singapore has edged out New Zealand, Germany, Canada and Bahrain to be the best place in the world for expats, according to HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey.

**Singapore named best place in the world for expats to live and work – 4th year in a row

** Singapore expats see 29% increase in earnings

Singapore has edged out New Zealand, Germany, Canada and Bahrain to be the best place in the world for expats, according to HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey. The survey found Singapore ranks 3rd for Economics, 5th for Families and 6th for Experience categories. Whilst Singapore has retained the crown for the fourth year in a row, the survey reveals that other countries are catching up.

Now in its 11th year, the HSBC Expat Explorer survey is the world’s largest and longest running study of expat life, asking more than 22,000 expats (including over 500 residing in Singapore) about their experience abroad. 

The Expat Explorer overall league table ranks each country using a score that summarises expats’ overall view of the country they live in. The Expat Explorer overall score is the average of the Economics, Experience and Family scores which covers 27 key criteria from the survey.

The best places to live and work as an expat
2018 2017 2016 2015
1. Singapore Singapore Singapore Singapore
2. New Zealand New Zealand New Zealand New Zealand
3. Germany Germany Canada Sweden
4. Canada Canada Switzerland Bahrain
5. Bahrain Australia Sweden Germany
6. Australia Sweden Bahrain Canada
7. Sweden UAE Germany Australia
8. Switzerland Switzerland Australia Taiwan
9. Taiwan Bahrain UAE UAE
10. UAE India Hong Kong Switzerland

Work, finances, lifestyle – Singapore provides the package

Singapore provides the career opportunities and scope for further progression. According to the survey, 45% of all expats in Singapore (Global average: 35%) say they initially made the move to Singapore for a career opportunity, and 69% agree that it’s a good place to progress their career (Global average: 56%).

Expats also say it helps them to get ahead financially. The survey finds 38% (Global average: 24%) moved to improve their earnings, and earn an average of USD162,000 (USD56,000 more than the global average). Moreover, 45% of expats in Singapore state that moving to Singapore has enabled them to begin saving to buy a property (Global average: 33%), and 59% say it has enabled them to begin saving for retirement (Global average: 37%). 

Singapore is considered the best country or territory in the world for education. The report finds 60% (Global average: 45%) of expat parents in Singapore say their children’s health and well-being is better here than at home.

Singapore the new love island?
The survey also finds that just under half (45%) of those surveyed in Singapore say they found a long-term partner in the Republic.

Mr Anurag Mathur, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC Bank (Singapore) commented: “It comes as no surprise that Singapore continues to be an expat draw-card. Its well-established international trade and investment links, mature financial markets, and strong economic growth make it an ideal home base for business owners and career-focused professionals to tap the growth opportunities in Asia.”

“But the real kicker is the lifestyle. When adding it together, while 19% were initially sent by their employer, but almost half (47%) chose to stay in this safe, well-organised city for its lush, vibrant surroundings and the great quality of life it offers them and their family.”

Are other countries catching up to Singapore?

Whilst Singapore has retained its top expat destination status for the past four years, other countries are beginning to narrow the gap across the three categories. 

According to the report, while Singapore retains its overall top three position in the “Economic” category, 65% of expats in the Middle East (specifically Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia) experience better earnings prospects which is consistent to last year. Similar to last year, almost one in three expats in Singapore did not see their disposable income rising (35%) nor being able to save more (36%) despite better career and income prospects. 

In Experience, Australia and Taiwan have moved ahead of Singapore in the leaderboard (Singapore is now at 6th position from 4th position in previous year). While there’s no dispute that it remains safe and efficient, expats here find that it takes some effort to form new friendship and immerse into local life. Taiwan in particular has done well making expats feel welcome despite the language barriers.  Predominantly a Mandarin-speaking country, 65% of their expats find it easy to form new friendships with locals which is an improvement of its 2017 score of 54%. Comparatively, only 46% of expats in Singapore say they can form new friends easily. Similarly, while 73% of expats in Taiwan have no problem integrating into local society, only 58% of expats in Singapore agree.

On the Family front, countries like New Zealand, Spain and France have moved ahead, shifting Singapore to 5th position.  While expats in Singapore appreciate the quality of childcare and education, 80% think it is more expensive to raise a child here which may have affected the overall ranking.  This is apparent when compared to France which has moved up to 3rd position in this category and has seen its scores improve year-on-year. According to the survey, 73% of expats in France feel their host country offers a better overall quality of life to their children (compared to 64% in 2017).

Mr Mathur continued: “We know other localities are wanting to position themselves as global financial capitals which requires – amongst other things – attracting the highest calibre of international talent. So it stands to reason that other countries are lifting their stakes in what they can offer expats.”

“Singapore continues to be the standard-bearer in terms of expat offering: providing an irresistible blend of strong financial incentives, career opportunities, and an amazing lifestyle. But it’s important that these international dynamics are recognised as they will impact Singapore’s ability to continue attracting international talents to its shore.”

Download the full Expat Explorer - Singapore report here.

Note to editors:

About the Expat Explorer survey and country league table

The Expat Explorer survey was open to adults over 18 years old currently living away from their country of origin/home country. The survey was completed by 22,318 expats from 163 countries and territories through an online questionnaire in March and April 2018, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by HSBC Expat. A minimum sample of 100 expat respondents and at least 30 expat parents is required for a country to be included in the league tables, with 31 countries qualifying in 2018.

Expat Explorer online:
Report and country comparisons: https://expatexplorer.hsbc.com/survey/
Twitter: @expatexplorer
Facebook: /hsbcexpat
Expats’ ratings of 31 host countries are available to explore online through the Expat Explorer interactive tool.