The United Arab Emirates is becoming an increasingly popular destination for expats while once popular countries like France, Spain and Portugal have moved down on the list.

One reason is that the quality of life for expats in these European countries has declined, with expats feeling the pinch of higher taxes and prices.


Indeed, according to the latest Quality of Life index compiled annually by NatWest International Personal Banking, expats living outside of Europe find themselves with a larger disposable income.

It means that expats in places like the UAE, Hong Kong, China and Singapore sees themselves as having a better quality of life.

Over the past five years, Australia, Canada and New Zealand topped the Quality of Life Index, but this year New Zealand fell out of the top three to fifth position, with the third ranking being taken by UAE.

Career opportunities are the key driver for expats heading to UAE, with 75% of those polled providing this as the reason for moving. However, they don’t see the UAE as a long term place to live — only 8% of respondents believe they will stay in UAE permanently. The majority, 92%, consider themselves on ‘temporary assignment’.

The data also shows 96% of expats living (even temporarily) in UAE, Hong Kong, China and Singapore enjoy a large disposable income.

‘The most notable shift in our Quality of Life results this year is the rise of the UAE as an expat destination,’ said David Isley, head of NatWest International Personal Banking.

‘The once loved traditional expat communities of France, Spain and Portugal are diminishing, with quality of life drastically reducing for expats living there, making way for newcomers such as UAE and Singapore. It seems expats are willing to adjust their lifestyle in exchange for a stronger economy and better job opportunities,’ he explained.

The report suggests that falling property prices, austerity measures and fears over job security are prompting 63% of expats in Europe to consider returning to the UK. Expats living in Spain are feeling the pinch the most, where unemployment stands at almost 20%. A third of respondents in Europe said they were already looking into returning to the UK.

Singapore is increasingly attracting expats, particularly those from the UK and Europe. Singapore has built a reputation for offering a good quality of life, as well as a range of interesting career opportunities. Expats living in Singapore have higher average incomes and greater wealth than expats living anywhere else in the world.

Overall, Australia still tops the index, followed by Canada, UAE, South Africa and New Zealand, with the traditional European countries no longer in the top five. In sixth place is the United States, followed by Singapore. France comes in at seventh, followed by Spain, Portugal and China. Hong Kong round outs the top 12.