Bahrain tops latest survey of expats’ favourite destinations; UK, US among biggest losers

The small Arab monarchy Bahrain has emerged as the preferred destination in the latest edition of Expat Insider’s annual survey of expatriates, which polled some 12,500 people living in 188 jurisdictions around the world about their experiences as expats. 

The survey, now in its fourth year, put Costa Rica in second place in the overall ranking, followed in order by Mexico, Taiwan, Portugal, New Zealand, Malta and Colombia.

Rounding out the top ten, in ninth and tenth place respectively, were Singapore and Spain.

The bottom ten jurisdictions this year included Italy, Saudi Arabia and Greece.

The Expat Insider Survey is published by the  is an arm of the Munich-based InterNations organisation, which was founded in 2007, and claims to have 2.8 million members, which it says is the largest such expat network.

‘Biggest losers’

Both the UK and  the US made this year’s “biggest losers” list, based on the responses of those surveyed, with the UK falling 21 places, to 54th, and the US falling 17 places to 43rd.

Topping the losers’ list was Australia, down from seventh place last year to 34th place this year; it was followed, in order, by Poland, the Ukraine, Ecuador, Panama, Uganda, the UK, Austria, Hungary and the US.

Last year’s American presidential election and the UK’s vote to leave the European Union are seen as making the US and UK seem less friendly to foreigners and less politically stable, while rising costs of living are also seen as affecting their image among expatriates.

Australia too – long seen as a sparsely-populated land that welcomed foreigners with open arms – has also begun to look at ways of reducing immigration and making it more difficult for foreigners to buy and own Australian residential property, in response to rising property prices that critics have said were the result in part of overseas investors.

As reported, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in April announced plans to abolish that country’s so-called “457 skilled visa programme” and to replace it with a temporary visa with new requirements for temporary foreign workers, in addition to plans to launch a new “training fund” that would help give Australians the skills that employers are currently relying on foreign workers to provide.

A summary of the survey’s findings noted that this year’s edition was the first time since it was launched in 2013 that none of the previous year’s top three destinations lead the ranking. And this year’s No. 1 place-holder leapt from 19th place in last year’s outing.

The survey’s researchers said expats living in Bahrain praised the country for making it “easy for [them] to feel at home”.

“The same applies to runner-up Costa Rica and Mexico,” they said, in a summary of the report’s findings.

“Nearly nine in ten expats (87%) rated the friendly attitude of the local population towards foreign residents positively in both countries, compared to a global average of 67% of expats feeling this way about their new neighbors”.

 

‘Best for working abroad’

A separate ranking, for the best countries for working abroad, also saw some major changes, with just six of last year’s top ten jurisdictions remaining in the top ten. The Czech Republic, which those expats surveyed last year put in ninth place, topped the list this year, knocking Luxembourg into fourth place; the other six that remained in the top ten were New Zealand (in second place), Malta (fifth place), Germany (seventh), and Norway (eighth).

Among the big movers on this chart this year was the Netherlands, which leapt to sixth place from 20th.

Worst Expat Destinations

As for the countries considered the “worst” for expats, the survey found they were Greece, Kuwait, Nigeria, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Ukraine, Qatar, India, and Turkey are the worst expat destinations in 2017. What all these countries have in common is that they also rank among the lower third of the list, or even among the bottom 10, in terms of working abroad.

“The main issue often seems to be a lack of career prospects, as about three in ten expats rate this factor negatively in seven of the named destinations, [with] Greece (60%) and Italy (51%) [standing] out for their extreme poor level of satisfaction” in this area, the survey’s researchers noted.

“[And] apart from work-related matters, the constant struggle with quality of life remains a major issue in Kuwait and Nigeria: almost one quarter of the expats in Kuwait (23%) are unhappy with their life in general, compared to only 10 percent of all expats worldwide.

“In Nigeria, safety and security cause additional problems, with nearly seven out of ten (68%) rating their personal safety negatively.”

For a country to be featured in the Expat Insider Survey, the researchers said they needed at least 75 survey participants, except for one survey category – the so-called Family Life Index – for which the minimum sample size was set at 40. This year, 65 and 45 countries respectively met these requirements, though the number of respondents in the majority of countries included in this year’s survey for the most part exceeded 100.

For more information on the Expat Insider Survey, and to download a copy, click here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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