Singapore Remains World’s Most Livable Location for Asian Expats

Singapore remains the world’s most livable location for Asian expatriates, according to the latest Location Ratings survey for expatriate living conditions published by ECA International.

However, the gap has closed between the remaining global top 10 and Singapore over a five-year period, with cities in Australia and Japan improving in terms of their overall livability for Asian expatriates.

“We have witnessed a gradual decline in Singapore’s overall quality of living in the past five years due to the deteriorating air pollution situation here, while cities such as Brisbane, Sydney and Osaka have all improved in terms of their overall livability,” said Quane.

Factors assessed by the report include climate; availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions and air quality.

Asia Pacific highlights

Hong Kong has fallen to 29th position in the global rankings and remains the 15th most livable location in the Asia Pacific region for Asian expatriates. However, there has been a gradual decline in Hong Kong’s global and regional ranking over the past five years.

Back in 2013, Hong Kong was ranked 11th worldwide and 9th in the Asia Pacific in terms of its livability for Asian expatriates.

“The gap between Hong Kong and Singapore in terms of our rankings has widened over recent years, due to worsening socio-political factors and curtailments to political freedom that we have witnessed in Hong Kong over the past 12 months,” said Quane. “Environmental factors such as lower levels of air pollution and the fact that Singapore is spared the impact of natural disasters such as typhoons that afflict Hong Kong annually are also key contributors.”

Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru both continue to sit outside the global top 100. Over a five-year period, they have both fallen in our global and regional rankings. Back in 2013, Kuala Lumpur sat in 25th place in the region and 113th globally; this year, it comes in at 27th and 118th respectively.

“In recent years, we have seen an increased threat from terrorism in Malaysia. While the Sabah region of the country is considered particularly dangerous for foreigners, risks have also increased in Kuala Lumpur in recent years. The impact of the seasonal forest fires in neighboring Indonesia has also increased in recent years,” said Quane.

Australian locations continue to dominate

Australian locations continue to dominate the regional and global top 10 rankings, with Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney occupying joint second place in both sets. Perth 7th, and Canberra 9th join them at the top of the global rankings.

In the Asia Pacific region, the most notable climb in the rankings was Australia’s Darwin. The city rose from 24th place to 15th place in the global rankings as its housing situation has improved.

Over the past five years, Darwin has climbed 39 places in the global rankings.

Osaka has the best living conditions out of all locations researched in Japan, and is ranked 5th globally.

All Japanese cities included in the rankings are positioned inside the global top 15 with Nagoya in at 9th; Tokyo and Yokohama sit in joint 11th position.

Of China’s Tier 1 cities, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou have all seen marginal improvements over the past year in terms of infrastructure. Shanghai has risen by three places in the past year to sit in 107th place in the global rankings and remains the most livable of the mainland Chinese locations assessed.

Shanghai also saw the most significant improvements in China since our last survey. The quality of health services, the availability of goods & services and infrastructure have all seen improvements in Shanghai over the past 12 months.

Bangkok and Chiang Mai continue to sit in the regional top 25 locations to live, coming in at 24th and 25th respectively in the Asia Pacific rankings.

In India, various cities have seen marginal improvements over the past year, as developments are happening throughout the country.

Bengaluru, ranked 174th globally, scores most favorably, followed by Mumbai and Pune (joint 183rd). New Delhi (205th) is the least livable. Along with Beijing, New Delhi has the worst score for air quality not just in Asia but globally. However, New Delhi has moved up three places from last year’s rankings owing to marginal improvements in other categories.

Chennai (195th) is the only Indian city to fall in the global rankings this year, with increasing air pollution and severe flooding responsible for this.

Global overview

For Asian expatriates going to live and work in Europe, Copenhagen and Bern offer the best quality of living, ranking 9th and 13th in the global rankings respectively.

In North America, Vancouver (22nd globally) remains as the most livable location, followed by San Francisco (39th). While in Latin America, the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo (121st), scores more favorably for Asian assignees, followed by Chile's Santiago (132nd).

Dubai (109th globally) is the location in the Middle East which requires the least adjustment for Asian assignees overall.

For Asian assignees going to Africa, Port Louis, Mauritius (114th), affords the best quality of living followed by Cape Town (133rd).

Globally, the hardest locations to adapt to living and working in are the Afghan locations of Kandahar (275th) and Lashkar Gah (276th).