In Focus
HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Expats shun costly Hong Kong as they embrace Taiwan and Singapore

Once a thriving expat hub, the SAR has plunged to 56th place in the global expat life rankings.

The dismal quality of expat life in Hong Kong has seen the SAR fall from grace to plunge at 56th place out of 68 in attractiveness to expats, according to a survey by InterNations. 

Hong Kong’s extremely weak showing in the eyes of expats sees it trailing behind its regional peers Taiwan and Singapore who managed to nab a spot in the global top ten.

Also read: Employing expats in Hong Kong cost more than Singapore

Once a thriving expat hub, the SAR has lost its luster over the last five years as 59% of expats in Hong Kong rate the quality of environment negatively, weighing on its performance on health and well-being categories. More than half (51%) of expats also lament the affordability of healthcare in the SAR.

The city's growing pollution problem with the level of pollutants in the mid-sized region nearly three times higher than New York and double that of London, has been cited as a major factor hampering expat liveability. 

Work-life balance is also a growing pain for expats as it ranks 65th out of 68 for this subcategory. In fact, the average working week for a full-time position In Hong Kong clocks in at 46.8 hours, compared to a global average of 44.0 hours.

Day-to-day living in Hong Kong is also another source of headache as almost a fourth of expats believe that their disposable income is not enough for their daily needs as skyrocketing costs have pushed the SAR down to last place in the cost of living subcategory. 

A separate survey by Mercer has recognised Hong Kong as the most expensive location for expats as foreigners have to grapple with the highest cost of goods and services. One liter of gasoline, unleaded 95 octane costs $15 (US$2) in Hong Kong, the most expensive in the world although London follows closely at US$1.4-1.5 and Singapore at US$1.5-1.6. Coffee in Hong Kong is also costlier than Singapore as average cost for the drink costs US$7 whilst only US$5 in the lion city.

Also read: Hong Kong remains Asia's priciest location for expat rental housing

The overall disappointing performance has pushed quality of life in Hong Kong from 4th in 2014 to 32nd in 2018.

If not for Hong Kong’s strong performance in personal safety (6th) and travel and transportation (2nd) which expats hail as one of the world’s best, the SAR would have fallen deeper in the rankings.

On the other hand, Singapore stands in stark contrast as it performs well in the expat survey after gaining top scores in travel and transportation and ranking 4th in quality of life. Expats also hail Taiwan for its quality healthcare and good work-life balance.

Bahrain has emerged as the top destination for expats followed by Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico and Singapore. Portugal, Costa Rica, Spain, Colombia, and Czechia complete the top ten.

On the other hand, India, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are amongst the countries at the bottom of the overall league table.

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