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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The Best Destinations for Expat Families

There has been some change in the Family Life Index since 2015, with Austria dropping out of the top three and the Czech Republic rejoining the ranking.
  • Israel enters top three with high ratings for childcare options and family friendliness
  • Brazil and Saudi Arabia sit firmly at the bottom
  • Drastic decrease in quality of education for Austria and Sweden
  • Lower satisfaction with childcare options in Denmark
  • Norway, Belgium, and South Korea emerge as biggest winners


In 2016, the Family Life Index consists of 45 countries, up from 41 last year. In order to be included, each country had to have at least 31 respondents who are raising dependent children abroad. The index ranks countries according to childcare and education options in general, their availability, their costs, the quality of education, and overall family well-being. This year, the children’s health and safety factor was split into two individual factors in the Family Well-Being subcategory.

Family Life Index

Family Life Index 2016

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Finland Leaps to the Top of the List

Rising to first for Family Life this year, from second place in 2015, Finland ranks first in all the index’s subcategories except the Family Well-Being subcategory, in which it comes a respectable fourth. For instance, not one expat parent has something negative to say about children’s health, children’s safety, or children’s well-being in Finland. The country does, however, only come 25th in regard to parents’ satisfaction with family life in general.

As a country that has scored above average in PISA tests, it is no surprise that Finland ranks highly for its childcare and education. In fact, an impressive 70% say the quality of education there is excellent compared to the global average of just 21%.

Czech Republic Resurges to Second Place

Having not qualified for the Family Life Index in 2015 due to an insufficient number of participants with children, the Czech Republic shoots from 15th in 2014 to 2nd in 2016. The availability and costs of childcare and education there are rated well by expat parents, with close to three-quarters (74%) overall agreeing that education is easy to afford in the Czech Republic compared to the global average of 45%. The opinions on the quality of education, however, are not quite so good. While the country still receives 81% generally positive opinions, it is in 13th place for this particular factor, compared to 2nd and 5th for availability of childcare and education, respectively.

The Family Well-Being subcategory is a mixed bag. Not one parent has something negative to say about children’s health there, with 94% being overall positive. Similarly, the Czech Republic comes third for the children’s well-being factor with 91% of expat parents overall satisfied. However, similar to the attitude towards foreign residents in general, the local attitude towards families with children does not receive glowing reviews. The country comes in 36th for this factor with 13% rating it negative to at least some degree, compared to 7% globally.

Israel Performs Well for the Second Year Running

Gaining one place from last year, Israel ranks third in the Family Life Index and performs particularly well in terms of childcare options in general. Indeed, 81% of expat parents are happy with the childcare options and they are similarly positive about the education options, with 84% expressing general satisfaction. The quality of education is also considered favorably by the vast majority of expat parents in Israel (84%).

Possibly surprising to some, family well-being is another positive in Israel. The country is ranked first for children’s health in the Family Well-Being subcategory, with 56% of expat parents saying it is very good. Families there are also made to feel welcome — 69% consider the attitude towards families with children to be excellent. The country is, however, regarded less favorably for children’s safety and family life in general, ranking 25th and 29th, respectively.

Missing the Mark

Of course, not all countries are considered so positively by expat parents. Saudi Arabia has been in the bottom two for the past three years, sitting at 44th place this year. This is one above Brazil, which has lost a place to Saudi Arabia and now sits in last place.

Falling from the Top

2015’s winner Austria has dropped three places this year from first last year to fourth place in 2016. The country especially lost ground in the Family Well-Being and Quality of Education subcategories, slipping from 2nd place in each to 18th and 12th, respectively. In addition, while Austria has never done well with regard to a friendly attitude towards families with children, it is now in the bottom three for this factor (43rd out of 45).

Dropping from 2015’s third to fifth place this year is Sweden. The rating for the Swedish Quality of Education subcategory has decreased drastically since last year’s survey, with the average single factor ranking dropping from 5.18 to 4.93 out of 7. This may be connected to the continued crisis that the Swedish school system has been facing in recent years, with PISA rankings having fallen and less students leaving school with the qualifications needed to go further.

Climbing the Ladder

The biggest winner in the Expat Insider 2016’s Family Life Index is Belgium, rising from 24th out of 41 countries in 2015 to 9th out of 45 countries in 2016, thus reclaiming its position from 2014. Compared to the previous year, the country shows improvements across the board, but most notably in regard to the availability of childcare and education: in 2015, 10% of expat parents there did not agree at all with the statement that childcare options were numerous and easy to get. In 2016, however, not one parent disagrees. Furthermore, this year, a third of expat parents consider the quality of education in Belgium very good. Last year, just about one-sixth (17%) said the same.

Another country which has improved greatly from last year’s survey is Norway, which rose from 17th in 2015 to 6th this year. In 2015, 22% of expat parents in Norway were overall dissatisfied with childcare options in general. This year, just 13% still say the same, with 28% even citing complete satisfaction (14% felt this way last year).

Rising ten places from 29th in 2015 to 19th in 2016 is South Korea, a development largely influenced by the country’s jump from 22nd to 4th in the Quality of Education subcategory. Indeed, 47% of expat parents in South Korea rate the quality of education as excellent this year compared to just 22% last year. The local attitude towards families with children has also improved: the percentage of parents who regard this factor negatively has more than halved from 7% in 2015 to 3% in 2016.

Tumbling down the Ranks

Falling from 19th place in 2015 to 34th this year, Bahrain is the biggest loser in the Family Life Index 2016. It saw a noticeable drop in the Quality of Education subcategory, among others, which has fallen from 8th in 2015 to 22nd this year.

Spain also took a tumble from 12th place last year to 26th in the 2016 Family Life Index. The Family Well-Being subcategory fell from 9th in 2015 to 20th this year and the percentage of expat parents who are completely satisfied with family life there in general has gone down from 35% to 17%. In this subcategory, Spain has in fact been continually falling in the rankings from the first year of the Expat Insider survey when it came second.

Denmark has fallen from 11th last year to come in at 23rd for Family Life in 2016. Childcare options in general are now considered less positively than last year. While in 2015, not one expat parent was not satisfied and just 8% said they were less than satisfied with childcare options, in 2016, these numbers have gone up noticeably: 16% are overall not satisfied, with 3% even stating complete dissatisfaction. However, it should be noted that Denmark has risen from 35th out of 41 last year to 32nd out of 45 this year in the Quality of Education subcategory.

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