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Singapore takes top spot for expats

Expat Explorer country league table, with expatriates[1] praising the opportunities for career development, appealing salaries and an excellent quality of life.

Over a quarter (28 percent) of expats in Singapore earn more than USD200,000 per annum compared to 13 percent of expats globally. Fifty-nine per cent say the city-state is a place for career development and 79 percent are confident about the Singapore economy. Overall, 67 percent of expats say Singapore offers a better quality of life than their home country and 65 percent of parents say their children’s health and wellbeing has improved since moving there. The Expat Explorer survey is commissioned by HSBC Expat and conducted by YouGov. Now in its eighth year, it is the largest and one of the longest running surveys of expats, with 21,950 respondents sharing their views on different aspects of life abroad including careers, financial wellbeing, quality of life and ease of settling for partners and children. A total of 39 countries qualified for the league tables in this edition.


Expat Explorer also reveals that:

Expats today look beyond just financial rewards

A better quality of life and the desire to take on a new challenge are the main reasons for making a move abroad. In both cases, 37 percent of expats say these are the reasons why they moved, compared to just over a quarter (26 percent) who say they did so to improve their job prospects. In fact, 61 percent of expats haven’t benefited from an immediate salary increase since moving. Expats are dedicated to experiencing as much as possible during their time abroad and only 11 percent say they haven’t immersed themselves into their new culture. Destinations where expats are the most likely to have moved to improve their quality of life are New Zealand (71 percent), Spain (61 percent) and Portugal (56 percent).

Expat entrepreneurs blossom in the world’s financial hubs

The vast majority of expats living in the world’s financial hubs of Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong or London agree they are good places to start a new business (87 percent, 86 percent, 85 percent and 85 percent respectively). This is much higher than the global average of 56 percent[2]. A high level of confidence in the local economy is another reason why these economic hubs suit the entrepreneurial spirit: 78 percent of expats in Singapore and 60 percent in Hong Kong feel confident about the local economy. The opportunity to broaden their skillset is a further upside for expat entrepreneurs who have settled in one of these cities: 64 percent of expats in London have acquired new skills since moving, compared to 43 percent globally.

Most generous expat packages are found in the Middle East

Besides high salaries and strong economic prospects, expats living in the Middle East can also enjoy unrivalled benefits packages. Health and medical allowances (70 percent of expats in the region benefit from these), annual trips home and airfare allowances (67 percent), and accommodation allowances (60 percent) are all far more likely to be offered as part of expat contracts in the region than in any other part of the world. For example, in Oman, 80 percent of expats receive airfare allowances for trips home, compared to just 33 percent globally. In Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, 75 percent and 55 percent of expats respectively receive an accommodation allowance (compared with 33 percent globally).

The top countries to live for expats focused on economics, experience and family are revealed as:

 1st in the Economics league table – Switzerland attracts career-driven expats

Switzerland comes first in the rankings as the best expat destination for career success and financial wellbeing. Seventy-seven per cent of expats feel confident about the local economy, and 53 percent say it is a good place to progress careers. These compare to only 48 percent and 41 percent of expats globally. A majority (63 percent) also thinks their work is more fulfilling in Switzerland than it was at home. On average, expats in Switzerland are more likely to enjoy more disposable income (65 percent), earn higher salaries (63 percent) and be able to save more (60 percent) as a result of moving to the country.

1st in the Experience league table – New Zealand is the hotspot for a fulfilling expat experience

New Zealand leads the way for a satisfying expat experience. Almost eight in 10 (77 percent) expats there find their quality of life is better than at home and well over half (63 percent) say making friends has been easy. Settling in is relatively quick, with 35 percent who felt at home instantly or within six months. The country’s great outdoors is a particular draw and 57 percent of expats have become more physically active since moving there.

1st in the Expat Family league table – Sweden is the most family friendly country

A new country in the league tables, Sweden takes the top spot as the best destination for expat family life, whether that is with or without children. Expat parents in Sweden praise the childcare available – with 79 percent finding it better than in their home country – the ease of arranging children’s education (67 percent), and its affordability (77 percent). Overall, 79 percent of parents say their children’s quality of life is better since moving. Sweden also has a lot to offer to single expats looking to start a family: 39 percent say they have found a long term partner there.

Dean Blackburn, Head of HSBC Expat, comments: “Living abroad allows people to realise a whole range of ambitions. Learning new skills, enjoying a different culture or growing closer to loved ones through a shared adventure: these are just some of the rewards expats tell us they have enjoyed through their time in another country. As global mobility continues to increase, expat life is more attainable than ever before. Expats need services that keep up with their changing needs, as managing money overseas remains a challenge. Indeed, 74 percent tell us their finances have become more complex in some way since moving, which highlights the value of seeking help with this aspect of life.”

[1] For the purposes of our survey, an expatriate as someone over 18 years old who is currently living away from their country of origin/home country.

[2] Based on those who hold a positive or negative opinion on the viability of starting a business in these cities

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