HR Excellence Awards 2023 Singapore
Ranking: The best and worst place for expats in 2021

Ranking: The best and worst place for expats in 2021


Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong are ranked 4th, 13th and 46th respectively in the ranking of best and worst places for expats.

Taiwan is crowned as the best place for expats to live and work abroad in 2021 for the third year in a row. The territory is ranked first in the quality of life and working abroad indices, with most expats indicating they are satisfied with their job security (83%), the state of local economy (85%) and their life in general (80%), which are distinctly higher than the global average (61%, 62%,80%).

What's more, the territory comes first in the friendliness subcategory, meaning most expats consider Taiwanese as friendly towards foreigners (96%) and they find it easy to make friends (62%)

The majority of the respondents are positive about the quality of medical care (96%) and the territory's affordability (94%).  Not a single expat feels personally unsafe, a sharp contrast to the global sentiment where only 8% of the surveyed expats can say the same thing. 

The only category where Taiwan falls behind a bit is in the ease-of-setting-in index, where it is ranked 13th out of 59 countries. 

The rankings are from InterNations' annual Expat Insider survey, whcich asked 12,420 expats representing 174 nationalities and living in 59 countries or territories to provide information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age, and nationality. Participants were asked to rate up to 37 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. 

Malaysia (4th) and Vietnam (10th) join Taiwan to represent Asia among the ten best expat destinations worldwide. While respondents all appreciate the local cost of living and its impact on their personal finances of these regions, Vietnam and Malaysia are even placed first and second in both indices.

Malaysia ranks above the global average in every index. In particular, expats rate Malaysia the second-best country in the ease-of-settling-in index. Over three-quarters of expats find it easy to settle down in the country and over three in five respondents (66%) say it is easy to make friends there. This might be due to the relatively little language barrier. A large 92% of expats find it easy to live there without speaking the local language (vs. 54% globally), while 45% also consider it easy to learn (vs. 39% globally).  

However, Malaysia performs worst in the working abroad index, but it still lands in a slightly above-average 25th place. Close to three in four (72%) expats are satisfied with their working hours (vs. 66% globally), and 69% are happy with their job in general (vs. 68% globally). 

Top five countries outside APAC

Mexico, which is ranked second overall, is rated as the best country for expats in the ease-of-settling-in index. Expats are satisfied with their personal financial situation and the cost of living of the country. Mexico performs slightly below average in the quality of life index (31st), and the quality of environment subcategory (42nd). More than a quarter (27%) of expats cite water and sanitation infrastructure as a concern, and one in five expats is concerned about their personal safety

Similarly, Costa Rica, which is the world's third-best country for expats, is ranked high in the ease-of-settling-in index. A majority (91%) of the surveyed expats describe the citizens as friendly. Different from Mexico, the country performs well in the quality of life index (14th), personal happiness ranking (2nd), and quality of the environment subcategory (10th). However, Costa Rica lands in the bottom 10 in the travel and transportation category. 

Portugal performs the best in the quality of life index (3rd) and the personal happiness subcategory (3rd). In addition to satisfaction towards their life, expats express positively toward the local leisure options and climate and weather. 

The country is ranked ninth in the ease-of-settling-in index and sixth in the friendliness subcategory. Additionally, Portugal is ranked second globally in the feeling at home subcategory. 

On the downside, the country is ranked 36th in the working abroad index and 44th in the career prospects and satisfaction subcategory. 

Bottom ten 

India and Japan are the only Asian countries featured at the bottom of the ranking. 

Surprisingly, Japan, a country that is frequently featured in the rankings of best tourist destinations, ranks 54th out of 59 countries, making it the sixth-worst place for expats. The country performs particularly poorly in the ease-of-settling-in index (58th). Just 36% of expats find it easy to settle down in Japan (vs. 62% globally), and a mere 45% feel at home in the local culture (vs. 63% globally).

Furthermore, 30% of expats are unhappy with their work-life balance (vs. 17% globally). Japan also receives poor results in the personal finance index (54th), with 26% of expats dissatisfied with their financial situation (vs. 19% globally).  

Conversely, Japan has an above-average performance in the quality of life index (21st). With the country coming 12th for the quality of the environment, 94% of expats rank the water and sanitation infrastructure positively, compared to 77% globally. Additionally, nearly all expats rate Japan positively for personal safety (97% vs. 84% globally) and peacefulness (95% vs. 80% globally). 

The best and worst places for expats in 2021

1. Taiwan
2. Mexico
3. Costa Rica
4. Malaysia
5. Portugal
6. New Zealand
7. Australia
8. Ecuador
9. Canada
10. Vietnam

11. Colombia
12. Bahrain
13. Singapore
14. Thailand
15. Czechia
16. Spain
17. Qatar
18. UAE
19. Panama
20. Luxembourg
21. Kenya
22. China
23. Austria
24. Oman
25. France
26. The Philippines
27. Ukraine
28. Estonia
29. Ireland
30. Switzerland
31. Indonesia
32. Romania
33. Netherlands
34. The US
35. Brazil
36. Germany
37. Denmark
38. Norway
39. Finland
40. Greece
41. Belgium
42. Saudi Arabia
43. Poland
44. Chile
45. United Kingdom
46. Hong Kong
47. South Korea
48. Hungary
49. Sweden

50. Malta
51. India
52. Turkey
53. Cyprus
54. Japan
55. Egypt
56. Russia
57. South Africa
58. Italy 
59. Kuwait

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