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The best countries to live and work: How Southeast Asian majors have fared

After four years at the top of the ranking, Singapore has been displaced by Switzerland as the best place in the world to live and work, according to HSBC’s 12th annual global expat survey. Switzerland climbed up from eighth rank last year to take top honours for its quality of life, highly competitive salaries, and stunning surroundings.

Despite the dip, Singapore remains the best destination for families (i.e. those relocating with children), largely due to its education system, job stability and opportunities as well as the quality of life it offers.

Here's how Singapore's Asian peers have fared in the ranking:

  • 10th - Vietnam (up from 18th in 2018)
  • 15th - Hong Kong (up from 16th in 2018)
  • 16th - Malaysia (down from 14th in 2018)
  • 18th - India (down from 11th in 2018)
  • 22nd - Thailand (down from 19th in 2018)
  • 24th - The Philippines (up from 26th in 2018)
  • 26th - Mainland China (down from 25th in 2018)
  • 31st - Indonesia (down from 12th in 2018)

The 2019 Expat Explorer survey is based on online responses by 18,059 expats across the world, conducted by YouGov. A minimum sample of 100 expat respondents including at least 30 expat parents is required for a country to be included in the league tables.

Country details: Indonesia

Although ranked 31st globally, Indonesia has moved up the ranks from 26th place to 22nd this year when it comes to the Careers League Table. In terms of both quality of living as well as a place to grow one's family, the archipelago ranked 30th.


Overall, the report stated: "While some expats head for the popular tourist hub of Bali, most live in the capital Jakarta, Indonesia’s political, financial and cultural centre."

Country details: Malaysia

Ranked 16th globally, Malaysia has leapfrogged up the Careers League Table to be ranked 19th for expat careers (vs 29th last year).


Calling Malaysia a hotspot for serial expats, the report cited: "Although international workers in Malaysia receive relatively low wages, compared to the global average, the lower cost of living puts more of their money at their fingertips."

Equally, it credited Malaysia's impressive sites and cityscapes, plus an excellent selection of restaurants and street food.

Country details: Singapore

One of the biggest draw of Singapore is that 85% of expats “feel safer and more secure” in Singapore and appreciate the “very clean and safe public spaces” that the country offers. These scores are significantly higher than the global average of 48% and 41% respectively.

Singapore also scored significantly higher than the global average when it comes to having an “excellent education system” (47% vs 26%), “and being “a good place to raise children” (54% vs 28%).  According to expats in Singapore, the benefits of raising children abroad include “fluency in more than one language."

Ian Yim, Head of Wealth & International, HSBC Bank (Singapore), said: "Singapore government’s ongoing focus on getting its fundamentals right in staying ahead and intensifying competition globally will ensure it remains an attractive destination for expats for years to come."

Country details: Thailand

When it comes to expat careers, Thailand has moved up 10 spots from last year to be ranked 25th in the world, a table which is dominated by Germany, Bahrain, and United Kingdom in the top three.


The report stated: "There’s plenty of sunshine, magnificent beaches and English is widely understood. You can also expect your money to go further. But don’t assume you’ll see first-world standards everywhere you go."

Country details: Vietnam

Vietnam has moved up six spots over the past year to be ranked 18th, in the league table for expat careers. Overall, the report said Vietnam's appeal has expanded greatly in the last few years, and expats are setting their sights on the magnificent landscape, lively culture and positive work life balance.


"Most expats moving to the country say they were able to quickly adjust to the way of life there, feeling at home within the first few months of arriving," cited the report, putting this down to Vietnamese communities being welcoming and encouraging expats to get involved with their cultural events.

Global ranking of the world's best countries to work and live:

1. Switzerland 2. Singapore 3. Canada 4. Spain 5. New Zealand 6. Australia 7. Turkey 8. Germany 9. United Arab Emirates 10. Vietnam

Lead image / iStock Graphics / HSBC

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