Singapore is again the most liveable location for Asian expatriates, having claimed the top spot every year since ECA International’s liveability rankings began in 2005. This was one of the conclusions of the latest Location Ratings survey published by global mobility expert, ECA International.

“Unsurprisingly for many, Singapore once again remains the most liveable location in the world for expats relocating from elsewhere in East Asia,” said Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia for ECA International. “Several factors make Singapore the ideal location, such as access to great facilities, low crime rates, good quality healthcare and education, as well as a large expat population already living in Singapore. Although many cities in Asia offer similar benefits to overseas workers, Singapore remains the top location, and it does not look like it will drop in the rankings any time soon.”

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 480 locations worldwide. The system helps companies establish appropriate allowances to compensate employees for the adjustment required when going on international assignments. Factors assessed include climate, availability of health services, housing and utilities, natural phenomena, isolation, access to a social network and leisure facilities, infrastructure, personal safety, political tensions, and air quality. The impact of some of the factors assessed will vary according to the home location of the assignee.

Asia highlights
Hong Kong has dropped 12 places and is now the joint 41st most liveable city for expats coming from elsewhere in Asia. Quane added: “Hong Kong has slipped down our rankings in the past year due to the disruption and considerable damage caused by Typhoon Mangkhut in September 2018. Although there was no loss of life, Mangkhut was the most devastating storm experienced by Hong Kong. The cost of the resulting damage to buildings and infrastructure is estimated to be around USD 1 billion. Therefore, Hong Kong’s liveability score has decreased to reflect the difficulties caused by Typhoon Mangkhut.” Hong Kong experienced the most significant fall in liveability rankings among all locations surveyed in Asia. Globally, Hong Kong’s drop in rankings is second only to Managua, Nicaragua, which experienced major socio-political changes in 2018. The fall also marks the continuation of a long-term trend, which has seen Hong Kong fall steadily from its highest ranking of 11th place in 2013.

Meanwhile, many Chinese cities have risen in the liveability rankings, as they continue to develop. Quane explained: “The location ratings scores for Chinese locations have been improving for years. Cities such as Beijing, Nanjing and Xiamen have all seen their scores improve this year, along with many others. Despite rapid improvements to infrastructure, excessive levels of air pollution are a downside for many Chinese cities, negatively impacting the quality of life. However, in recent years, the Chinese authorities have introduced measures to combat air pollution, which have translated into improvements in their rankings.”

The majority of Malaysian and Thai locations saw their scores improve and rise in the liveability rankings too. Bangkok is the highest rated Thai city, sitting at 89th place, whilst George Town and Kuala Lumpur have risen to 97th and 98th in the rankings respectively. “Both Thailand and Malaysia continue to develop and improve their infrastructure, resulting in steady improvements in their liveability scores over recent years. In particular, advances in road and transport infrastructure have improved access to areas in these countries that were once considered far more remote.”

Japanese cities continue to perform strongly, with all four of the Japanese locations included in the rankings featuring in the top ten. This is despite Osaka’s score dropping slightly due to the effects of Typhoon Jebi, which caused significant damage to the city. Quane said: “Japanese cities have always performed strongly in our Location Ratings rankings, and this year is no exception, with Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Yokohama all in the top 10 locations for Asian expatriates. Despite Typhoon Jebi hitting Osaka and southern Japan in early September and causing widespread disruption and casualty to the region, Osaka remains joint fifth in the rankings – only a slight drop from third last year.”

The only other Asian location to experience a drop in liveability ranking as significant as Hong Kong was Colombo in Sri Lanka, which fell 12 places to 194th overall. Quane said: “In recent months, there has been considerable political instability in Sri Lanka owing to a constitutional crisis over the Prime Minister’s position. This led to a significant amount of violent unrest, in addition to other unrelated ethnic violence earlier in 2018. However, the situation now has cooled slightly, and we may see a score reduction in the next survey.”

Global highlights
Outside of Asia, cities in Australia and New Zealand offer the best quality of living for Asian workers, with Brisbane and Sydney joint second in the rankings. “Australian and New Zealand locations always tend to score well for Asian expatriates, due to the high level of infrastructure and facilities. This is also because they are geographically closer to the home locations of Asian workers as compared to cities in Europe or further afield.” Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, is the most liveable European location for Asian expats, and joint 10th overall. “Copenhagen is consistently high in our liveability rankings and is the most liveable European location, as it was last year. Copenhagen scores well across the board, due to low pollution and crime levels, access to good facilities and schools, and excellent healthcare,” said Quane.

ECA International’s Location Ratings system measures the quality of expatriate living conditions in over 480 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.