Singapore keeps top spot in expat survey

Susan Fenton

Singapore has retained its status as the best location for expatriates in Asia while Hong Kong has fallen behind Tokyo because of bad air pollution, an annual survey released on Wednesday shows.

Singapore was ranked the best location for the 10th straight year, followed by Japanese cities Kobe, Yokohama and Tokyo, according to the survey by London-based ECA, which ranks cities by climate, air quality, health services, housing and personal safety, among other categories.”Good infrastructure and healthcare facilities, low crime and health risks, and decent air quality contribute to Singapore providing the best quality of living for Asian assignees,” said Lee Quane, Asian director of ECA International, which advises on expatriate packages and allowances.

Bad air quality and inferior health facilities pushed Hong Kong into fifth place, from fourth last year.

But cities in mainland China held on to last year’s higher rankings and have become more livable in the past year as a result of infrastructure development, ECA said. Shanghai stayed in 11th place, ahead of Seoul, while Nanjing was in 13th.

The survey aims to help companies establish expat allowances. Companies may be seeking to slash expat packages during the global economic downturn but ECA said only a handful of cities in Asia offer expatriate staff a good standard of living.

Most of the 49 Asian locations ranked remain challenging for one reason or another, and therefore, warrant high location allowances, it said.

China remains a hardship posting, and pollution is a problem, but infrastructure development, low crime rates and political stability put China well ahead of India in the rankings.

New Delhi stayed in 37th place, partly because the air quality there is particularly bad. That puts it behind Hanoi (17), Colombo (32) and even Ulan Bator in Mongolia (34).

Mumbai in 30th place was unchanged from last year’s ranking, despite the Mumbai attacks late last year because they were a further example of political tension in the country, which is already factored into the ranking, Quane said.

In contrast, Bangkok’s ranking fell to 9th from 8th place after political unrest late last year caused street protests and the closure of Bangkok’s international airport for several days.

Kabul was named the least favorable location in Asia.

Top 12 Asian locations for expatriates: (last year’s rankings in brackets)

1. Singapore (1)
2. Kobe, Japan (2)
3. Yokohama, Japan (3)
4. Tokyo (5)
5. Hong Kong (4)
6. Taipei (6)
7. Macau (7)
8. Kuala Lumpur (9)
9. Bangkok (8)
10. Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia (9)
11. Shanghai (11)
12. Seoul (12)

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