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Hong Kong plummets in expat liveability rankings

  • Hong Kong drops over 50 places and is now 93rd most liveable location for East Asian expats
  • Hong Kong’s ranking affected by ongoing instability and anti-government protests
  • Singapore is once again named the most liveable location
  • Australian cities all fall in the rankings, while Thai and Vietnamese cities see improvements 

Hong Kong has tumbled 52 places and is now only the 93rd most liveable location for overseas workers coming from elsewhere in East Asia, being overtaken by major Asian cities such as Seoul and Taipei. This was one of the conclusions of the latest Location Ratings survey published by global mobility experts, ECA International.

“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, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International. “Not only are the heightened political tensions worrying for expats living in the region, 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 a rise in crime rates since the protests began.”

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 490 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 will vary according to the home location of the assignee.

Asia-Pacific highlights

Singapore has once again finished top of the rankings for East Asian expats. Singapore has been top of the rankings every year since 2005.

Quane said “Singapore has consistently featured at the top of our liveability rankings for Asian expats for well over a decade and this year is no different. Singapore boasts excellent infrastructure and amenities across the board, as well maintaining low crime rates and a large expatriate community, meaning that Singapore stays in the top spot and most likely will do for the considerable future.”

Elsewhere in the region, Australian cities saw drops in the rankings after liveability scores worsened in every location. However, all seven Australian cities in the list still feature in the top 30 destinations for East Asian workers.

Quane explained “Nearly all of the Australian locations in the rankings dropped this year due to a rise in the threat level posed by potential terrorism. After numerous foiled plots in recent years, the official threat level was raised to ‘probable’ and this has therefore been reflected in the overall liveability scores for Australian locations. However, it should also be pointed out that Australian cities still occupy the upper ranks of our ratings; with Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide all staying put in the top ten.”

In contrast, Thai and Vietnamese cities all saw significant improvements to their score and rose in the rankings as a result. 

“Liveability has improved in Thai and Vietnamese locations due to the economic growth that both countries are seeing currently. As Vietnam develops and invests in better infrastructure, living standards have improved for locals and expats in the country. Meanwhile, for the Thai locations in our list, the success of the recent peaceful democratic elections means that cities in the country have seen an improvement in the political situation too – something that inevitably improves liveability levels for expatriates” explained Quane.

Global Highlights

Copenhagen is once again the most liveable location for Asian expats outside of the Asia-Pacific region. The Danish capital is joint ninth in the rankings and joins a host of other Northern European locations in the top 20.

Quane said “Cities in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Switzerland have consistently scored well for expat liveability and Copenhagen in particular is once again the top European destination for East Asian expats. Excellent transport links, a high standard of healthcare and political stability, mean that overseas workers can adapt to these locations with ease.”

US cities saw a mixed fortune this year, with New York and San Francisco rising in the rankings after improvements to their liveability scores but others, such as Boston, falling. 

“New York and San Francisco 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. Our research into liveability in Boston on the other hand has indicated that the booming economy means that there is greater competition for housing available for expats, thus impacting on the city’s overall liveability score.”

Top 20 most liveable locations for East Asian expatriates
Location
Country
2018-19 ranking
2019-20 ranking
Singapore
Singapore
1
1
Brisbane
Australia
2
2
Sydney
Australia
2
3
Nagoya
Japan
5
3
Osaka
Japan
5
3
Tokyo
Japan
5
3
Adelaide
Australia
4
7
Wellington
New Zealand
8
7
Copenhagen
Denmark
10
9
Yokohama
Japan
10
9
Utrecht
Netherlands
13
11
Canberra
Australia
8
12
Eindhoven
Netherlands
17
12
Auckland
New Zealand
14
12
Bern
Switzerland
14
12
Perth
Australia
10
16
Amsterdam
Netherlands
17
16
The Hague
Netherlands
17
16
Stavanger
Norway
17
16
Geneva
Switzerland
17
16

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors

About ECA International 

ECA International is the market-leading provider of knowledge, information and technology that enables businesses to manage their international reward programmes.

Partnering with thousands of clients on every continent, we provide a fully-integrated suite of quality data, specialist software, consultancy and training. Our unparalleled insights guide clients as they mobilise their most valuable resource: people.

We make the complex world of international mobility simple, providing clients with the expertise and support they need to make the right decisions – every time.

ECA International: Mobility solutions for a world that’s constantly moving.

About ECA’s Location Ratings

Updated annually, ECA International's Location Ratings system measures the quality of expatriate living conditions in over 490 locations around the world to arrive at a fair and consistent assessment of the level of difficulty the expatriate will experience in adapting to a new location. Factors evaluated 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.

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