Singapore the best place for expats, while UK, US are just OK, according to HSBC survey

Time to dig out the passport? Expats have better quality of life

Singapore has topped the table of best expatriate destinations for the second year running, but Sweden is the best place for raising children, while Switzerland offers the best wages, according to an influential global survey.

The U.K. and the U.S., meanwhile, languished around mid-table on HSBC's ninth annual Expat Explorer survey.

Almost two thirds of "expats" told HSBC that their overall quality of life improved after moving to Singapore. HSBC defines an expat as any adult currently living away from their country of origin, and interviewed almost 27,000 people in 190 countries to get its findings.

Singapore's stats among expats were formidable: more than 60 percent said they were both earning more in Singapore than they did in their home country, the same proportion said they were saving more, 73 percent were confident about the local economy, 62 percent felt it was a good place to advance their careers and 58 percent thought the city-state was a good place to start a business.

On top of that, nearly half felt they were healthier living in Singapore, 84 percent say the island was safer than their home country and 75 percent rated the quality of education as better than at home.

The financial rewards weren't too bad either, with expats in Singapore earning $139,000 a year on average, while 23 percent of respondents earned more than $200,000.

Source: HSBC 2016 Expat Explorer Survey

But if earnings were considered the main priority, then opportunists should look to Switzerland, which ranked first in the survey's "economics" table (Singapore was second), and had topped the overall table in 2014. HSBC's economics table was ranked based on questions about expats' personal finances, local economy and working life.

Just under 30 percent of expats earned more than $200,000 in Switzerland and more than 75 percent said their earnings prospects were better than in their home country. The global average expatriate earnings sat at $97,000 a year, according to the report.

There were other benefits to living in Switzerland, with the majority of the survey's participants reporting that they had become more physically active. But Switzerland ranked lower when judged on social experiences - only 35 percent of respondents found it easy make friends in the country, while more than half did not judge it to be easy to integrate into the local community and culture. Globally, 61 percent of respondents said they it easy to integrate.

Raising a family in Switzerland was also not cheap, with 95 percent of expat parents in Singapore saying the cost of raising children were lower in their home country.

Sweden remained the best place for expat families in the 2016 ranking. Almost 70 percent of expat parents living in Sweden said their children's health and wellbeing had improved since moving. Most Sweden-based survey participants also said that the quality of childcare facilities in Sweden were better than at home.

Singapore's Marina Bay skyline at sunset.
Getty Images

For the best expat "experience," though, life as an honorary Kiwi took top spot, while Spain came second in the HSBC survey experience category. The experience league table was based on quality of life questions, as well as ease of settling in and integrating.

HSBC's tables ranked 45 countries in total. The U.K was ranked 22nd on the overall league table, and performed considerably better on economics table (16th place out of 45) than it did on experience (30th) and family (29th). The U.S. was 30th overall – like those in the U.K., expats in the U.S. ranked their economic prospects higher (20th) than they did their experience (34th) and their family life (37th).

But HSBC's polling on specific cities found that London and New York rated well, with 71 percent of expats in those cities believed that working there would improve their job prospects when they returned home, and more than 50 percent found their work to be more fulfilling than at home.

As for expats' less-favored places, Brazil came in last in the overall table, while Egypt was second-last. Italy was last and Brazil second-last for economics, Egypt was last and China second-last for "experience" and South Korea was bottom of the table, narrowly underperforming Chile, when it came to family life.

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