Expats rank Bahrain as best place to live with Hong Kong near the bottom

Pedro Gonçalves
clock • 2 min read

Bahrain took the top spot as the best place for expatriates for the second year running. Foreign workers praised the Gulf state’s friendliness and said it was easy to make a life there. Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico and Singapore followed in the survey.

Hong Kong’s high cost of living, long working hours and lack of childcare have made the city one of the least preferred destinations for expats, which ranked it 56th out of 68 economies worldwide.

The findings were published in the latest Expat Insider survey by networking website InterNations, which interviewed about 18,000 expatriates around the world in February and March.

Many respondents in Bahrain give their working hours (44%), job security (33%), or overall job satisfaction (39%) the best possible rating, pushing the Gulf state to the top of the survey.

A very different picture is painted for expats living in one the world’s most expensive cities. Foreigners in Hong Kong reported difficulties making friends and staying healthy, but were relatively happy with transport and internet services.

“At 46.8 hours, the average length of a full-time work week in Hong Kong is noticeably above the global 44-hour average,” the report said.

Expats also complained about a scarcity of childcare and difficulties securing quality education, for which Hong Kong came last among 50 economies included in this sub-ranking.

“As one Spanish expat pointed out, ‘there are very limited housing and education options in Hong Kong unless you are very wealthy’,” the report said.

The city trailed Vietnam (14th), Myanmar (53rd) and mainland China (55th).

Lack of affordable health care weights US down
However, Hong Kong is not the only destination expats are now shunning. The appeal of the US as a destination for expatriates slid for the fifth consecutive year, to 47th.

Weighing down the US is a steadily deteriorating reputation for safety and a perceived lack of affordable health care. Five years ago, the US held the fifth slot.

Kuwait once again stood at the bottom of the ranking in 68th – the same position it held from 2014 to 2016 – after coming second to last in 2017.

The Gulf country stood last for quality of life, ease of settling in and general satisfaction with life abroad. It was also in the bottom five for working abroad and family life and came in 50th for personal finance.

The poor results come as the country moves to replace foreign workers in government roles and rebalance is population.

Standing just one place above was Saudi Arabia, which has been in the bottom 10 of the survey since 2014.

This year it stood in 67th after ranking in the bottom five of all indices except for personal finance (31st). Three in five expats said their disposable household income was more than they needed to cover costs but general satisfaction with life in the country was rated negatively by 40% of respondents.

Britain was ranked 59th.