Singapore tops Expat Explorer survey for third year running

Singapore, the chewing-gum free city-state off the southern coast of Malaysia, has topped HSBC’s annual league table of expatriates’ favourite jurisdictions in which to live and work for the third year in a row.

Now in its tenth year surveying expatriates on a range of issues of concern to them, the HSBC Expat Explorer survey also found that expats rated Switzerland, New Zealand and the Netherlands at the top of its “sub-league tables” in its economics, overall experience and family categories in its latest outing.

In taking the top place in the overall category, Singapore saw off competition from Norway, which rose four places to come in second as expatriates’ favourite place to be posted to, the HSBC researchers reported. (See table, below.)

Neither the US nor the UK appears in the Top 10 places. The US rose three places to 27th, while the UK fell 13 places to 35th place. Ireland also fell, 10 places to 37th, and Switzerland fell six places to 11th.

Although “culturally very different” yet both “highly-regarded”, Singapore and Norway “offer expats a stable economic and political environment, while giving them a fulfilling experience and an improved family life”, according to a summary of the HSBC Expat Explorer research, which was officially released this morning in London.

The HSBC Expat Explorer survey polls more than 27,500 expats about their experiences abroad, and is said  to be the largest and longest-running study of expat life.


Among the key findings in this year’s survey is that expats typically see their income increase by around 25% as a result of taking up their overseas posting, with the average expat earning just under US$100,000 (£74,300, €84,800)  a year.

But the expatriate life doesn’t just seem to benefit the expatriate’s bank balance, the Expat Explorer research reveals: Four in ten (41%) of the expats interviewed were found to have adopted “a more positive outlook on life” after moving abroad, with 44% reporting that they became “more physically active” in their new home.

Singapore: ‘earning prospects, disposable income’
Although Singapore is widely viewed as an expensive place for expatriates to set up shop, the Expat Explorer Survey researchers found that two-thirds (65%) of the expats they interviewed there reported they actually enjoyed having more disposable income than they did back home. And almost three quarters (73%) said the city-state offered them “better earning prospects”.

“Expats moving to Singapore report an average 42% increase in their annual income compared to home, to almost US$118,000,” the summary of findings noted.

What’s more, the summary continues, “Not only is Singapore a land of economic opportunity, it is also a top destination [in which] to raise a family.

“Four in five expats (82%) feel safer there than at home, and 72% of expat parents rate the quality of education and the health and well-being of their children better than in their home country.

“This compares with 49%, 44% and 50% globally.”

Still, expat life in Singapore can come at a price, the summary of the Expat Explorer Survey’s findings notes, as expats living in Singapore emerged as “less likely to see an improvement in their work/life balance than those in other destinations ” (the exact percentages were 47% , compared to 53% globally).

Moreover, perhaps not surprisingly, more than four in five (84%) of the expat parents in Singapore who were surveyed reported that the cost of raising their children in Singapore was “more expensive than at home”.

Norway, meanwhile, rose four places in the league table this year, and, the researchers noted, narrowly missed out on the top spot.

According to the Expat Explorer data, the majority (90%) of expats in Norway say that their work/life balance has improved since they moved there, and 78% reported that their job security was better there than at home (compared with 53% and 41% respectively, globally).

In addition, 82% of expat parents in Norway reported that their children’s overall quality of life was better there than at home, compared with 59% globally.

“These much-appreciated upsides are typical of the Nordic model characterised by a flexible and yet secure employment market as well as free education and universal healthcare,” the summary of the Expat Explorer survey noted.

When the time came to return home, most of the expats surveyed on this said that they experienced “at least one issue”, with 53% saying they “miss[ed] their life abroad”, the survey found.

To read more about and to download the findings of this year’s Expat Explorer Survey, click here. 

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