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Hong Kong’s ranking among the world’s most liveable cities recovers but remains significantly lower

  • Removal of pandemic restrictions sees liveability of Hong Kong improve over last 12 months
  • Hong Kong’s overall ranking falls in the last ten years, but it remains in the top 10 most liveable Asian cities
  • Singapore remains the most liveable city for Asian expatriates, with low crime rates among the attractions
  • Busan is the most improved city in Asia over the last ten years
  • Mainland Chinese cities rise up the rankings thanks to steady improvements over the last decade

Hong Kong has improved its liveability since 2022 due to the removal of the final Covid 19-related restrictions, according to the latest annual Location Ratings Report from global mobility expert, ECA International (ECA). “Hong Kong and mainland China were among the last places globally to lift restrictions, meaning they were relatively more challenging locations to live in during the final stages of the pandemic,” said Mark Harrison, General Manager for Asia at ECA. “With those restrictions belatedly lifted, both Hong Kong and mainland Chinese locations have seen improvements over the last 12 months.”

ECA’s Location Ratings objectively evaluate cities around the world to form an assessment of the overall quality of living for expats in over 500 locations across the globe. The ranking is based on a variety of liveability factors including availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and recreational and leisure facilities; infrastructure; climate; personal safety; socio-political tensions; and air quality. The impact of some of the factors assessed will vary according to the home location of the assignee.

Looking at the changes over the last ten years though, Hong Kong’s ranking in terms of liveability for Asian expatriates has fallen from 17th globally in 2013 to 77th now. “Since political demonstrations in 2014 and protests in 2019, elements of our assessment related to socio-political tensions and freedom of expression have worsened,” said Harrison. “However, Hong Kong still has excellent facilities, infrastructure, recreational options and low crime rates and remains an attractive location relative to many other locations in the region.” Hong Kong is behind only Singapore, Japan and Busan in Korea Republic in terms of ECA’s Asian rankings.

“The intrinsic risk of disruption caused by typhoons, relatively high levels of pollution and difficulties in obtaining suitable accommodation are factors which count against Hong Kong compared to locations such as Singapore, which remains the most liveable city for Asian expatriates,” added Harrison. Despite also facing challenges associated with natural disasters, Tokyo is the second most liveable city for Asian expatriates. Indeed, Tokyo has risen from 9th position in 2013 to become the second most liveable city in ECA’s latest assessment. “In 2013, people in Tokyo were still living with the after-effects, such as energy rationing, of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011,” said Harrison. “However, improvements in living conditions since then mean Tokyo is ranked only behind Singapore in terms of its liveability levels for expatriate staff.”

Mainland Chinese cities have climbed significantly in the rankings in the last ten years, despite losing some of their momentum during the Covid-19 pandemic. “The zero-Covid policy and associated restrictions caused many Chinese cities to fall in our rankings for a couple of years,” said Harrison, “but when we look at our current assessment compared to five or ten years ago, we can see that Chinese cities have risen notably in the rankings as living conditions have improved.” Some aspects of life continue to be challenging for expatriates, such as high levels of pollution, censorship, and suboptimal healthcare facilities. However, improvements in areas such as transport infrastructure and international schooling provision are the reason cities like Shenzhen (137th this year compared to 152nd ten years ago), Xi’an (163rd this year compared to 176th), and Wuhan (up from 160th to 145th) have improved in the rankings. 

The pattern of gradual improvement has also been witnessed elsewhere in the region. Small developments over the last ten years in areas such as transport infrastructure, health services and recreational facilities have seen the likes of Jakarta (213th to 196th), Phnom Penh (200th to 184th) and Hanoi (160th to 144th) climb the rankings. Busan is the most dramatic example, having risen from 81st to 49th over the last decade due to small but significant improvements in healthcare facilities, recreational options, and the quality of utilities.

Elsewhere in Asia, Yangon (Myanmar) is the location which has fluctuated most in the rankings over the past 10 years. Between 2013 and 2018 there was a significant improvement in its rankings (from 225th to 208th) following the reinstatement of civilian rule and strong economic growth. However, this progress was reversed when the military seized power again in 2021 and Yangon is now back down in 229th position, lower than it was 10 years ago.

Outside of Asia, cities in New Zealand and Australia are the most liveable for Asian expatriates (Wellington and Adelaide are ranked joint 2nd globally alongside Tokyo), with Eindhoven in the Netherlands being the highest rated European city (7th) and Vancouver, Canada the highest placed North American city (23rd). Locations which have risen most in ECA’s rankings in the period from 2013 to 2023 include Tbilisi in Georgia which has risen 53 places from 201st to 148th. 

Top 20 most liveable locations globally for East Asian overseas workers
2023 ranking
2013 ranking
Tokyo, Japan
Wellington, New Zealand
2 6
Adelaide, Australia 2 4
Brisbane, Australia
5 4
Osaka, Japan
5 3
Eindhoven, Netherlands
Yokohama, Japan
7 9
Sydney, Australia 7 2
Bern, Switzerland 10 9
Rotterdam, Netherlands 11 29
Stavanger, Norway
Auckland, New Zealand
Copenhagen, Denmark
Geneva, Switzerland
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Gothenburg, Sweden
Perth, Australia
Nagoya, Japan
Dublin, Irish Republic 20 14
Hong Kong 77 17


Notes to Editors

*The 2023 Location Ratings represent the situation in November 2023, with all scoring accurate at the time of publication. The rankings are compared with those from ten (2013) years ago.

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 globally, 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 500 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; socio-political tensions; and air quality. The impact of some of the factors assessed will vary according to the home location of the assignee.

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