Singapore has again been rated by expats as the best country in the world to live and work, in the new HSBC Expat Explorer survey. Singapore saw off competition from Norway, which rose four places to come second. 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.

Now in its tenth year, the HSBC Expat Explorer survey is the world’s largest and longest running study of expat life, asking more than 27,500 expats about their experience abroad.  As well as unveiling the best places in the world to live as an expat, the survey also found that life abroad typically increases expats’ income by 25 per cent with the average expat earning just under USD100,000 a year. Far from compromising their wellbeing, expats seem to find the right balance. Four in ten expats adopt a more positive outlook on life after moving abroad, with 44per cent becoming more physically active.

Expat Explorer league table

The Expat Explorer overall league table ranks each country or territory using a score that summarises expats’ views on economics, experience and family life aspects in their host country.

Singapore came in at top, closely followed by Norway, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands.

Confidence in the political stability (83 per cent) and local economy (73 per cent), a great quality of life (64 per cent say it is better than at home) and a positive experience for families are among the reasons why Singapore has topped the Expat Explorer league table again.

Singapore, balancing all aspects of expat life

Indeed, 73 per cent say the country offers better earning prospects than their home country and two-thirds (65 per cent) enjoy more disposable income. Expats moving to Singapore report an average 42 per cent increase in their annual income compared to home, to almost USD118,000.

Not only is Singapore a land of economic opportunity, it is also a top destination to raise a family. Four in five expats (82 per cent) feel safer there than at home and 72 per cent 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 per cent, 44 per cent and 50 per cent globally.

But expat life in Singapore can come at a price. Expats are less likely to see an improvement in their work/life balance than those in other destinations (47 per cent compared to 53 per cent globally. More than four in five expat parents (84per cent) find that the cost of raising children in Singapore is more expensive than at home.

Norway, meanwhile, is up four places in the league table and narrowly misses out on the top spot. The majority (90 per cent) of expats in Norway say that their work/life balance has improved and 78 per cent that the job security is better than at home (compared with 53 per cent and 41 per cent globally). Furthermore, 82 per cent of expat parents say that their children’s overall quality of life is better than at home, compared with 59 per cent 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.

Expat Economics: European countries lead the way

European countries head this year’s Economics league table, with Switzerland coming top for the third year in a row. The strong Swiss economy and stable political environment are appreciated by expats. the vast majority (89per cent) of expats feel confident about the economy while 78per cent say their earning prospects are better than at home.

Switzerland is not the only Economics hot spot, however. Germany performs well for career development, with 62 per cent of expats in the country saying it is a good place to progress their career, compared with 54 per cent globally.

Expat Experience: New Zealand and Spain praised for the quality of life

New Zealand comes top in the Experience league table. Almost three in five expats (58 per cent) moved to the ‘land of the long white cloud’ to improve their quality of life, compared to just a third (34 per cent) of expats globally. Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) are integrating well with the local people and culture.

New Zealand is followed by Spain (2nd) and Portugal (3rd), with Singapore and Australia completing the top 5. Spain and Portugal are lauded by expats for their healthy lifestyles. Almost three-fifths of expats in Spain (58 per cent) and in Portugal (57 per cent) say their physical health is better as a result of the move compared to a global average of 36 per cent.. Mexico has moved up seven places from 20th to 13th, with 81 per cent of expats there enjoying immersing themselves in the local culture, compared with 62 per cent globally.

Expat Family: The Netherlands is the new hotspot 

The Netherlands has overtaken Sweden as the best place to raise a family, rising nine places in one year. More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of expat parents in the Netherlands say the health and wellbeing of their children is better than it was at home. Expat parents also praise the quality of education and childcare with 72 per cent and 65 per cent respectively saying it is better than at home.

Last year’s winner, Sweden, ranks as the second best country to raise a family. Nearly three-quarters (72per cent) of expat parents rate the quality of childcare as better than at home and 71per cent said the process of arranging a school for their children was straightforward.

Other country moves in the Expat Explorer league table: 

#10 UAE: Back for good

A renowned destination for expats, the UAE is back in the top 10 and is living up to its promise. More than half (56 per cent) say they moved there to improve their earnings, compared with 22 per cent of expats globally. The benefits of life in the UAE are not just reserved to expat finances. More than half (55 per cent) say their work/life balance is better than at home and more than three in five (62 per cent) say their overall quality of life has improved. The same goes for families, with 66 per cent of expat parents saying their children’s quality of life is better since the move.

#14 India: Best ever ranking

Driven by strong ratings across a range of economic, experience and family measures, India shines in this year’s league table, moving up 12 places. Expats’ ratings of India as a destination have improved as a good place to progress their career (up 12 percentage points to 63per cent), having the ability to save more (up 11 percentage points to 64per cent), having a better overall quality of life (up 12 percentage points to 43per cent) and their success at integrating with local people and culture (up 9 percentage point to 67per cent).

#35 UK: Mixed sentiments with positive experiences

Down 13 places to 35th, the UK’s ranking has been affected by a 20 percentage point drop in confidence in the economy (43 per cent) and a 22 percentage point fall in confidence in the country’s political stability (31 per cent) However, expats still believe the UK offers a positive experience. Almost seven in ten (68 per cent) say the UK is a good place for expats who want to progress their career compared with a global average of 54 per cent, and 56 per cent say that earning prospects are better than at home compared with 50 per cent globally. Almost seven in ten expats are integrating well with the British people (69 per cent) and enjoy immersing themselves in the local culture (68 per cent).

Dean Blackburn, Head of HSBC Expat, comments:

“Each year that we conduct the Expat Explorer survey, I am amazed by the diversity of the expat community. From young entrepreneurs and career climbers to families looking for a fresh adventure, there is a destination out there to suit everyone.

“Singapore has been rated the number one destination by expats for the last three years, offering economic stability, a great quality of life and a safe environment for families. The rise of countries like Norway, Germany and the Netherlands up the table this year shows how quickly destinations can become expat hot spots.

“However, becoming an expat is not without its challenges. Living across international borders can make securing their financial wellbeing harder. Whatever their priorities are, financial planning can help them get there.”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.