Singapore is once again the most liveable city in the world for Asian expatriates. This was one of the conclusions of the latest Location Ratings survey published by global mobility expert, ECA International.

“Singapore has traditionally sat at the top of the ECA rankings and this year is no different,” said Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International. “This is due to a combination of factors such as low crime rates, easy access to good quality schools and healthcare and lower levels of pollution than a lot of other locations in the region”.

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 assignment. Factors assessed 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. The impact of some of the factors assessed will vary according to the home location of the assignee.

Asia Highlights

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong is only joint 28th in ECA’s Asian rankings for expat quality of life.

Quane said “Hong Kong has failed to see an improvement on its score from last year and continues to suffer from long-term air quality and pollution issues which has seen it stay in the low position in the rankings”.

The majority of Chinese cities saw a fall in ECA’s rankings. Beijing saw the biggest drop, falling 10 places to 134th on the list.

Quane said “With only a few exceptions, Chinese cities saw a drop in their liveability scores for expats. This was mainly due to the increase in internet censorship and the ban on virtual private networks (VPNs) in the past 12 months, as well as the worsening pollution in a number of Chinese locations included in the survey”.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur features at a lowly 126th in ECA’s rankings for Asian expats.

Quane explained, “In the last five years, Kuala Lumpur has seen a drop in the rankings, falling from 25th to outside the top 100. One of the main causes for this is that whilst other locations have improved their air quality, the high levels of pollution in Kuala Lumpur, coupled with relatively high rates of petty crime, have seen the city slip down the rankings.”

“However, the Malaysian capital scores well in categories such as utilities and the availability of housing, so there are still positives for any Asian expatriate moving to Kuala Lumpur.” Quane continued.

Taipei is the highest ranked Taiwanese city, featuring at joint 65th on the list.

Quane said, “The main issue for any expatriates moving to Taiwan is the heightened risk of natural disaster in the area. This includes phenomena such as earthquakes and typhoons which, although rare, mean that Taiwanese cities are not considered as liveable as many other locations in Asia.”

Japanese cities continue to perform strongly in the liveability rankings, with all the surveyed Japanese locations featuring in the top 40 places for Asian expatriates.

Quane said, “Japanese cities are consistently among the best locations for Asian expatriates to relocate to. This is due to, among many things, the excellent facilities and infrastructure, as well as the prevalence of a range of goods and services. Tokyo especially has become increasingly attractive to expats and climbs into the top 10 this year.”

Global Highlights

Outside of Asia, Australia leads the way for Asian expats, with Brisbane as the second most liveable location and Sydney and Adelaide in joint third.

Quane explained, “Australian cities always tend to perform strongly in terms of liveability for Asian expats due to the excellent facilities and infrastructure, as well as the generally low levels of crime and air pollution”.

In Europe, Copenhagen leads the way in 10th place whilst London lags behind in joint 67th. New York is similarly low in the rankings as the joint 82nd most liveable location for Asian expatriates.

Quane said, “It may be surprising to some that London and New York do not score as well as many other European and North American locations on the list, but this is due primarily to higher levels of crime and air pollution. However, this is to be expected for cities of this size and both locations are relatively high up the rankings when looking at the full list.”

Top 20 most liveable locations for Asian expatriates

Location 2018 ranking 2017 ranking
Singapore 1 1
Brisbane, Australia 2 2
Adelaide, Australia 3 2
Sydney, Australia 3 2
Osaka, Japan 3 5
Perth, Australia 6 7
Nagoya, Japan 6 7
Tokyo, Japan 6 11
Wellington, New Zealand 9 6
Canberra, Australia 10 9
Copenhagen, Denmark 10 9
Yokohama, Japan 10 11
Darwin, Australia 13 15
Melbourne, Australia 13 13
Bern, Switzerland 13 13
Amsterdam, Netherlands 16 19
Eindhoven, Netherlands 16 19
The Hague, Netherlands 16 15
Auckland, New Zealand 16 15
Stavanger, Norway 16 15

If you’re interested in global mobility and expatriate management, take a look at the programme for our leading Global Mobility summit taking place on the 6th June 2018.





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.