When expatriating employees to Southeast Asia, Singapore is the top regional choice for employers, followed by Kuala Lumpur, as uncovered in Mercer’s 18th annual quality of living survey.
However, both countries fare moderately in the overall global rankings, with Singapore pegged at 26th, and Kuala Lumpur featuring much lower in the global order at 86th.
Notably, the region has considerable variations in quality of living, with Singapore and Kuala Lumpur followed by Bangkok (129), Manila (136), and Jakarta (142).
Japanese cities ranked the highest in Eastern Asia, with Tokyo in 44th place. Other notable cities in that region were Hong Kong (70), Taipei (84), Shanghai (101), and Beijing (118).
The lowest ranked city in Asia was Dhaka, at 214th on the global ranking.
Personal safety in Asia
Safety, in particular, came up as a key factor for multinationals to consider in expatriation, both in terms of the expat’s personal safety and because of its impact on the cost of global compensation programmes.
Mercer’s survey identified personal safety rankings based on internal stability, crime figures, performance of local law enforcement, and the home country’s relationship with other countries.
For personal safety, the rankings for Asian cities again varied greatly. Singapore (8) ranked highest overall, and was followed by five Japanese cities — Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo, and Yokohama — tied for 32nd place.
Other key cities included Hong Kong (37), Taipei (78), Beijing (97), Seoul (115), New Delhi (142), and Jakarta (172).
Following considerable political unrest and terrorist attacks in several tourist areas over the last few years, Bangkok ranked 173rd for personal safety.
Slagin Parakatil, principal at Mercer and responsible for the quality-of-living research, commented: “Other elements that add to safety costs in the host location are suitable and well secured accommodations; an in-house expatriate security programme and access to professional evacuation services and medical support firms; and security training and guarded office premises.”
Despite recent security issues, social unrest, and concern about the region’s economic outlook, European cities continued to rank high for their quality of living – with Vienna continuing its reign in the top spot, followed by Zurich (2), Auckland (3), and Munich (4).
New Zealand and Australia fared strongly – with Auckland ranked 3rd globally, Sydney 10th, Wellington 12th, and Melbourne 15th.