Far East attracting more British expats, according to new quality of life index

by Ray Clancy on October 20, 2014

The Far East, especially China, Singapore and Hong Kong, are becoming more popular destinations for British expats, although Australia is still the most popular overseas country to move to, a new global survey has found.

China has seen highest increase in scoring in the annual Quality of Life Index published by NatWest International Personal Banking with a mean score of 74.8 in the 2014 report, up from 27% compared to 2013.

Expats benefit from new technology

China has seen highest increase in scoring in NatWest International’s annual Quality of Life Index

China now ranks fifth place in the index, up from eleventh last year. Singapore is in fourth place, up from seventh place and Hong Kong in eighth position, up from twelfth place.

Of those surveyed, 71% of British expats moved to China for better job prospects with 87% stating they earn more than they did in the UK. Also, 49% said they believe their work-life balance has improved. They cite a friendly local culture, good food, and good fitness opportunities as key factors for remaining in the country. For British expats, the quality of public transport in China, with its bullet trains, city subway systems and vast bus networks is also a big draw.

Singapore ranks highly among British expats for raising children, with excellent childcare and education, even if it’s expensive. Singapore has a strong work ethic and to be successful there, expats must be career-driven, with the country scoring low for work-life balance and 53% of expats saying they worry about job security.

In 2013, the number of work visas issued in Hong Kong to UK citizens jumped 45% to 3,907. This number marked a record high. Some 74% of British expats in Hong Kong say are attracted by low taxes, 58% by efficient public transport and 92% by the widespread use of English. There are downsides, however. Some 34% say there is a shortage of international schools, 73% say Hong Kong is overcrowded and 94% don’t like the pollution.

‘Our Quality of Life 2014 Index has revealed some interesting shifts in quality of life for British expats. With the heyday of Europe seemingly forgotten, the Far East has tempted many expats to dip their toes into a different life, one they appear to be reaping the benefits of,’ said Dave Isley, head of NatWest International Personal Banking.

‘Better career prospects and higher wages are enjoyed by many in China, Singapore and Hong Kong, which has lifted these countries up the league table,’ he explained.

The index also shows that Europe reached the bottom of the index for the first time in seven years. France is now in tenth place, down from eighth place last year and fourth place in 2011, 2010 and 2009. A third of British expats living there say they would move back to the UK.

Also at the bottom of the rankings are Spain and Portugal. In eleventh place, Spain has fallen from ninth place last year, eighth place in 2012 and seventh place in 2011, 2010 and 2009. Portugal, in twelfth place this year is down from tenth place last year, ninth place in 2012, sixth place in 20122 and 2010 and fifth place in 2009.

Australia is still the top destination for British expats and has been in the top three since the index began, taking first place in 2014, 2013 and 2010, second place in 2012 and third place in 2011 and 2009. Some 87% of British expats in Australia intend to remain there for in the long term.

In second place for 2014 is Canada, followed by the United Arab Emirates. New Zealand is in sixth, South Africa in seventh and the United States is in ninth place.

Over the past six years, South Africa has seen their number of expats soar, up 19% over the period. There are an estimated 239,000 British expats in South Africa, higher than the number of UK citizens in France and New Zealand. In contrast, there has been a 30% decrease in the number of Brits moving to Western European countries, particularly Spain, Portugal and France, a trend that is likely to continue.

According to the report, the UAE is one to watch, being in third position for the second year running. The British expats there are typically young, aged 25 to 35. Some 84% said the Emirates provides a good working environment, 94% said they have a high disposable income and 82% cited excellent career prospects. Despite career benefits however, expats there have found it difficult making friends and integrating into the community.

The study also reveals the demand for British professional skills in the tiger economies will undoubtedly continue to grow. This has already led to a 34% increase in the number of expats working in China, Singapore and UAE, while those working in the US have decreased 17%.

The ‘Quality of Life’ study was carried out for NatWest International Personal Banking by the Centre for Future Studies between May and June 2014 among 1804 British expats. It rates expats’ lives abroad based on assessments of lifestyle indicators such as availability of consumer goods, entertainment, food, law enforcement, public transport, sanitation, housing, public services, leisure and culture, schools and education, financial confidence, healthcare provision, retirement facilities, weather, financial factors and the natural environment.

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