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Singapore remains top location for Asian expatriates

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Singapore is once again the most liveable location for Asian expatriates, having claimed the top spot every year since ECA’s liveability rankings began in 2005.

Bangkok is the highest rated Thai city, but sitting only in 89th place.

This was one of the conclusions of the latest Location Ratings survey published by global mobility experts, ECA International.

Bangkok highest rated Thai city in 89th place

The majority of Malaysian and Thai locations saw their scores improve and rose in the liveability rankings too. Bangkok is the highest rated Thai city, sitting in 89th place, whilst George Town and Kuala Lumpur have risen to 97th and 98th in the rankings respectively.

  • Singapore is once again named the most liveable location for East Asian expats
  • Remains ahead of Japanese and Australian locations to take the top spot for 14th year in a row
  • Hong Kong continues to fall, now down to joint 41st most liveable location 

“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 at ECA International.

Singapore property market
Singapore remains top choice for Asian expats

“A number of 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 doesn’t look like dropping in the rankings any time soon.”


Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International

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; 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.

Location2019 ranking2018 ranking
Singapore11
Brisbane, Australia22
Sydney, Australia23
Adelaide, Australia43
Osaka, Japan53
Nagoya, Japan56
Tokyo, Japan56
Wellington, New Zealand89
Canberra, Australia810
Perth, Australia106
Copenhagen, Denmark1010
Yokohama, Japan1010
Utrecht, Netherlands1313
Melbourne, Australia1414
Bern, Switzerland1414
Auckland, New Zealand1417
Darwin, Australia1714
Amsterdam, Netherlands1717
Eindhoven, Netherlands1717
The Hague, Netherlands1717
Stavanger, Norway1717
Geneva, Switzerland1722

Hong Kong and Managua fall down

Hong Kong has dropped twelve places and is now only the joint 41st most liveable city for expats coming from elsewhere in East Asia.

Hong Kong’s fall down the liveability rankings was the greatest of all locations surveyed in Asia

“Hong Kong has slipped down our rankings in the past twelve months due to the disruption and considerable damage caused by Typhoon Mangkhut in September. Although there was no loss of life, Mangkhut was the most devastating storm experienced by Hong Kong since record began and 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 changed to reflect the difficulties caused by Typhoon Mangkhut.”


Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International

Hong Kong’s fall down the liveability rankings was the greatest of all locations surveyed in Asia and second in scale only to Managua, in Nicaragua, which experienced significant socio-political change in 2018.

The fall also marks the continuation of a long-term trend though, which has seen it steadily fall from its highest ranking of 11th place in 2013.Meanwhile, many Chinese cities continue to rise in the liveability rankings, reflecting a long-term trend as many locations in the country continue to develop. 

Quane explained “The location ratings scores for Chinese locations have been improving for many years and cities such as Beijing, Nanjing and Xiamen have all seen their scores improve this year, along with many others. Despite rapid improvements to infrastructure, the one downside for many Chinese cities has been excessive levels of air pollution which have negatively impacted the quality of life. However, in recent years the Chinese authorities have introduced measures to combat air pollution and these efforts are translating into improvements in their rankings.”

“Both Thailand and Malaysia continue to develop and improve their infrastructure which has seen their liveability scores steadily improve 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.”


Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International

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 ten 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, a slight drop from third last year.”

The only other Asian location to experience a drop in their liveability ranking as significant as Hong Kong was Colombo in Sri Lanka which fell twelve 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 has now cooled somewhat, and it may be that we 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, as well as the fact that they are geographically closer to the home locations of Asian workers 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 tenth 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, including low pollution and crime levels, access to good facilities and schools, and excellent healthcare” said Quane.

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