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Singapore secures top spot again in global liveability rankings, Hong Kong falls

  • Overall living conditions in Singapore decline over five-year period due to worsening air pollution
  • Hong Kong’s global and regional ranking continues to fall, dropping to 29th position globally
  • Kuala Lumpur falls out of regional top 25

Singapore remains the world’s most liveable location for Asian expatriates. This was one of the conclusions of the latest Location Ratings survey for expatriate living conditions published by ECA International, the world's leading provider of knowledge, information and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.

Singapore continues to sit above its regional rivals in our global liveability rankings. With low crime rates, decent medical facilities and excellent infrastructure, it comes as no surprise why Singapore tops our rankings time and time again.

- Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia, 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 liveability 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 liveability,” said Quane.

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 470 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; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions and air quality. The significance of some of the factors assessed, such as distance from home and differences in culture, language and climate, will vary according to where someone originates from. For this reason, we take into account both the home and destination countries when analysing quality of living.

Asia Pacific highlights

Hong Kong has fallen to 29th position in the global rankings and remains the 15th most liveable 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 liveability 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 neighbouring Indonesia has also increased in recent years,” said Quane.

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 our 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 our 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 liveable 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 favourably, followed by Mumbai and Pune (joint 183rd). New Delhi (205th) is the least liveable. 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 our 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 liveable location, followed by San Francisco (39th). While in Latin America, the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo (121st), scores more favourably 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).

Top 15 most liveable locations in Asia Pacific for Asian expatriates

Location Asia Pacific Rank Global Rank
  Regional 2017 Regional 2016 Global 2017 Global 2016
Singapore 1 1 1 1
Adelaide  2 2 2 2
Brisbane 2 5 2 5
Sydney  2 2 2 2
Osaka 5 2 5 2
Wellington 6 5 6 5
Nagoya 7 7 7 7
Perth  7 7 7 7
Canberra  9 9 9 9
Tokyo 10 10 11 11
Yokohama  10 10 11 11
Melbourne  12 12 13 13
Auckland 13 13 15 15
Darwin 13 14 15 24
Hong Kong  15 15 29 28

About ECA's Location Ratings

Standard allowance calculations:

Updated annually, ECA International's Location Ratings System measures the quality of expatriate living conditions in over 470 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.

Follow ECA on twitter: @ECAintl


ECA's Location Ratings are delivered through ECA's Location Allowance Calculator which offers a transparent and detailed system for calculating location allowances for expatriates relocating to a new country. 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. Users can select region-to-city allowances or city-to-city allowances, so that depending on a company's policy the system reflects the level of detail required.

To read more about factors influencing ECA's Location Ratings, download the free Location Ratings Global Perspectives report here

  Please contact us to speak to a member of our team directly.

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