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Hong Kong: Asia's third most liveable city, but among the world's worst for air quality

17 Apr 2012


  • Singapore retains its crown as the world's most liveable city, followed by Sydney
  • Japanese cities affected by last year's catastrophic events have fallen in the ranking

Hong Kong has jumped from the fifth to the third most liveable city in Asia, according to the latest Location Ratings for expatriate living conditions published by ECA International, the world's leading knowledge and solutions provider for international HR professionals. However, this is a result of changed circumstances in other cities in the region rather than any significant improvement in Hong Kong's liveability score.
 
Updated annually, ECA International's Location Ratings system helps companies to establish appropriate expatriate allowances to compensate for the level of adjustment required to complete an assignment. It objectively evaluates a host of factors to form an assessment of the overall quality of living in over 400 locations worldwide. These factors 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. The system recognises that where an employee is going from and to can affect the level of adaptation required on the part of the assignee for some of these factors. The results used here are for assignees from Asian countries.
 
Of the 49 Asian cities assessed, Hong Kong comes third after Singapore and the Japanese city of Kobe. It has overtaken Tokyo and Yokohama, which both dropped one place in the regional ranking as a consequence of the fallout from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in north-east Japan last year.
 
Globally, Hong Kong is ranked 11th, up from 14th position last year. Tokyo and Yokohama both fell from joint 6th to joint 17th place.
 
"Hong Kong's rise up the ranking is a reflection of Tokyo's and Yokohama's fall rather than any locally-generated improvements in Hong Kong's score," said Lee Quane, Regional Director, Asia, ECA International. "When a natural disaster occurs, infrastructure, utilities and availability of goods and services are all likely to be adversely affected, and this is what we have seen in these two locations."
 
In disaster situations, some companies may consider increasing the location allowances they provide to their international assignees.
 
"The purpose of a location or hardship allowances is to compensate for the adjustment employees and their families need to make when going on international assignment, not for any increased risk that an employee may face while on assignment," explains Quane. "No amount of money can compensate for risk to personal safety. Practical support in the form of added security or evacuation is usually a better response where there are safety risks."
 
In terms of making adjustments to location allowances, we advise companies to review them in conjunction with their annual salary reviews. This ensures a consistent approach. It also allows any changes to be made on the basis of an assessment of the on-going impact of a disaster or disturbance rather than as a result of a knee-jerk reaction that may become difficult to manage later on."
 
As in previous years, Hong Kong's quality of living score is reduced by poor air quality. It has the third worst score for any Asian city after Beijing and New Delhi and now ranks among the worst locations worldwide for air quality, along with Santiago, Mexico City, and Cairo.
 
"Despite its very poor air quality, Hong Kong's overall position is fairly strong. This reflects the good schooling, housing, transport connections and availability of goods and services that the territory offers. However, air pollution could be a critical factor for an employee trying to decide whether to relocate here. In this respect, Singapore has a clear lead over Hong Kong, giving it an advantage in terms of attracting business from overseas," says Quane.
 

Singapore and Sydney top the global ranking

Good air quality, solid infrastructure and healthcare facilities, low crime and low health risks helped Singapore maintain the number one spot in the global ranking for quality of living for Asian assignees. The city is closely followed by Sydney.
 
"The further up the ranking a location is, the less likely a location allowance will be required," says Quane. "However, the impact of some of the factors we use in our assessment, such as distance from home and differences in culture, language and climate, will vary according to where someone comes from. For this reason, we take into account both the home and destination countries when analysing quality of living. So, while Singapore ranks at the top for Asians, it ranks 66th for someone coming from Western Europe. For European expatriates, Bern in Switzerland and Copenhagen in Denmark are the most liveable locations."
 
Baghdad, Kabul and Port au Prince remain the least favourable locations to live in.
 

Asia highlights

Scores have generally remained steady across most Chinese locations. Shanghai, ranked 83rd globally, is the most liveable of the mainland Chinese locations assessed, followed by Beijing (99). Small improvements in facilities for expatriates, such as health amenities and availability of goods and services, have meant that Guangzhou (112) is closing the gap with Shanghai and Beijing.
 
In India, Bangalore (156) scores the most favourably, ahead of Chennai (167), Mumbai (172) and New Delhi (182). These locations score well in terms of availability of schools, housing and goods for expatriates, but less well for health facilities. Kolkata is the least liveable of the Indian locations listed (211).
 
While Taipei is ranked 6th in Asia, it falls to 60th position globally and has some way to go to catch up with Singapore and Hong Kong, particularly in terms of health services and socio-political tensions.
 

Global overview

 

Middle East and Africa

The biggest movements in the ranking this year have been witnessed in some of those Middle Eastern and African locations that have recently experienced political upheaval.
 
"Political change such as the toppling of an autocratic regime can result in issues surrounding personal security and socio-political tensions rising as the country adjusts from a tyrannical yet stable regime to one of violence, civil war and uncertainty," notes Quane.
 
Tripoli's score fell significantly, particularly in terms of personal security and social political tensions, dropping 24 places in the ranking to 260th position. Cairo also fell 24 spots and now ranks 199th globally.
 
In the Middle East, the Syrian capital, Damascus, dropped 29 places to 208 – the biggest fall year-on-year. Bahrain’s capital, Manama, which was previously the most liveable location in the region has fallen 16 places globally to 96th. The political upheaval which broke out there last year has affected its social political score in particular.
 
Within the Middle East, Dubai (81), Abu Dhabi (82) and Doha (89) now offer the best quality of living for Asian expatriates.
 

Australasia

Australian locations dominate the global top 10 with Perth (6), Canberra (7) and Melbourne (8) joining Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide at the top of the ranking. In the region, the most notable change was New Zealand's Christchurch. The city dropped from 30th to 53rd place in the ranking as its housing and infrastructure were severely affected by last year's earthquake.
 

Europe

For Asians going to live and work in Europe, Copenhagen and Dublin offer the best quality of living. Both cities are ranked 8th globally. They are followed by Bern (11) and Antwerp (15). London sits in 46th position and Paris in 58th. Of the Central and Eastern European locations assessed, the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana (53) comes top followed by Croatia's Zagreb (69).
 

Americas

Vancouver, ranked 11th, continues to offer the best quality of living for Asians heading to North America. Despite the cultural differences and distance from home, good air quality, recreation and health facilities, and availability of goods and services all contribute to the good quality of life in the city. Vancouver is followed by San Francisco (17).
 
Security and pollution are major issues in a number of South American locations. Sao Paolo (No.140), Rio de Janeiro (140), Mexico City (161), Caracas (205) and Port au Prince (262) all scored particularly badly in terms of personal security. Santiago (110) in Chile and Mexico City (161) are among the locations to have scored worst for air quality.
 

Top 20 most liveable locations globally for Asians

Global Rank 2012

Location

Global Rank 2011

1
Singapore
1
2
Sydney
2
3
Adelaide
4
3
Brisbane
3
5
Kobe
4
6
Perth
6
7
Canberra
9
8
Dublin
12
8
Melbourne
10
8
Copenhagen
10
11
Bern
17
11
Hong Kong
14
11
Vancouver
14
11
Auckland
12
15
Antwerp
17
15
Wellington
14
17
San Francisco
20
17
Tokyo
6
17
Yokohama
6
20
Amsterdam
22

Least liveable 20 locations for Asians to live

Least liveable 2012

Location (Global Rank)

Country

1
Baghdad (263)
Iraq
1
Kabul  (263)
Afghanistan
3
Port-au-Prince (262)
Haiti
4
Karachi (261)
Pakistan
5
Tripoli (260)
Libya
6
Conakry (258)
Guinea
6
Sana'a (258)
Yemen
8
N'Djamena (257)
Chad
9
Brazzaville (256)
Congo
10
Niamey (254)
Niger
10
Khartoum (254)
Sudan
12
Djibouti (253)
Djibouti
13
Pyongyang (252)
Korea DPR
14
Islamabad (251)
Pakistan
15
Asmara (250)
Eritrea
16
Algiers (249)
Algeria
17
Kinshasa (244)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
17
Abuja (244)
Nigeria
17
Ashgabat (244)
Turkmenistan
17
Luanda  (244)
Angola
17
Harare  (244)
Zimbabwe

 

Top most liveable Asian locations

Asia rank 2012

Location

Asia rank 2011

Global Rank 2012

1
Singapore
1
1
2
Kobe
2
5
3
Hong Kong
5
11
4
Tokyo
3
17
4
Yokohama
3
17
6
Taipei
6
60
7
Macau
7
63
8
George Town
8
73
8
Seoul
10
73
10
Kuala Lumpur
9
76
11
Bangkok
11
79
12
Shanghai
12
83
13
Bandar Seri Begawan
13
92
14
Beijing
14
99
15
Nanjing
15
104
16
Guangzhou
17
112
16
Xiamen
16
112
18
Shenzhen
18
123
19
Tianjin
19
128
20
Dalian
20
130
21
Ho Chi Minh City
21
133
22
Hanoi
21
136
23
Chengdu
23
139
24
Chongqing
26
145
25
Wuhan
24
147
26
Denpasar
24
152
27
Bangalore
29
156
28
Metro-Manila
27
157
28
Xi'an
32
157
30
Vientiane
29
161
31
Shenyang
31
164
32
Chennai
28
167
33
Mumbai
33
172
34
Colombo
35
174
35
Ulaanbaatar
34
177
36
New Delhi
37
182
36
Phnom Penh
36
182
38
Jakarta
38
195
39
Kolkata
39
211
40
Yangon
39
215
41
Surabaya
41
218
42
Kathmandu
41
225
42
Tashkent
43
225
44
Dhaka
44
238
45
Ashgabat
45
244
46
Islamabad
46
251
47
Pyongyang
46
252
48
Karachi
48
261
49
Kabul
49
263

 

Location ratings – measuring hardship and managing allowances webinar

ECA will be running a webinar looking at how the events of the last year have affected ECA’s location ratings on Thursday 10 May, 3pm Hong Kong time. To register, please go to http://www.eca-international.com/events___training/calendar/417/
 
For further information please contact: lee.quane@eca-international.com
 

Notes to Editors

About ECA (www.eca-international.com)

ECA is the world's leader in the development and provision of solutions for the management and assignment of employees around the world. Delivering data, expertise, systems and support in formats which suit its clients, ECA's offer includes a complete 'out-source' package of calculations, advice and services for companies with little international assignment management experience or resource; subscriptions to comprehensive online information and software systems for companies with larger requirements; and custom policy and system development projects for companies who manage thousands of international assignees around the world.
 
Follow ECA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ECAIntl
 

About ECA’'s Location Ratings

ECAs Location Ratings research is carried out on an annual basis and objectively evaluates various factors in order to arrive at a fair and consistent assessment of the quality of living in over 400 locations worldwide. Categories include climate, health services, isolation, social network and leisure facilities, infrastructure and political tensions. The scores take into account the home and destination country, therefore rankings will vary according to the base used to compare the quality of living. For comparison purposes the rankings used here are for 265 locations worldwide on an Asian base. A location's position in the ranking can be affected by deterioration or improvement in scores as well as by the movement of other locations relative to it.
 
ECA‘s Location Ratings are delivered through ECA's location allowance calculator which offers a transparent and detailed system for calculating location or "hardship" allowances for expatriates relocating to a new country. Users can select region-to-city allowances or city-to-city allowances, so that depending on your policy the system reflects the level of detail that is required. ECA's system provides an immediate "banding" for the host location, based in part on the circumstances of the home location. With the banding come ECA's recommended allowances, expressed as a percentage of home gross salary.

See also