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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Where Expats Are Safe, Healthy & Content

The newcomer Taiwan finishes on first with stellar healthcare, Austria impresses with its clean water and clear air, and Japan’s transport infrastructure knows no equal.
  • Last year’s winner Singapore dropped down to 8th place
  • Ecuador and Israel losing ground
  • Taiwan scores high with personal safety and medical care
  • Austria first for Health & Well-Being
  • Japan stands out for peacefulness and transport infrastructure


What do expats have to say about the living standards in their country of residence? For the Quality of Life Index, the survey respondents were asked questions about leisure options, travel & transport, health & well-being, safety & security, and personal happiness. A country needed at least 50 respondents to feature in this index.

This year, the former Health, Safety & Well-Being subcategory was split into the two separate subcategories Health & Well-Being and Safety & Security in order to better reflect the importance of these areas of expat life. In this spirit, the question about the climate and weather was also moved to the Leisure Options subcategory.

Quality of Life Index

Quality of Life Index 2016

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Taiwan Swoops In to Claim First

The newcomer Taiwan rose right to the top of the 67 countries in 2016’s Quality of Life Index. It also holds first place in this index among female respondents, and second for men. It has achieved this star position despite not getting first place in any of the subcategories, although it does rank comparatively well in all of them. It performs strongest in the Health & Well-Being subcategory, where it comes in second. This subcategory, however, is distinguished by stark contrasts. Whereas Taiwan comes in first place in terms of the quality of medical care and its affordability, it is all the way down at 37th in terms of the quality of the environment (e.g. water, air). While 94% rate the quality of the medical care positively, only 61% feel the same about the quality of the environment (six percentage points below the global average of 67%).

A staggering 99% rate their personal safety favorably, and 78% even say it is very good. Around nine out of ten expats (89%) are also happy with the peacefulness in Taiwan. Overall, however, this Asian country only ranks tenth in the Safety & Security subcategory. This is due to its 18th place for political stability, possibly a result of the country’s ambiguous political status.

Not one person considers the climate and weather to be very bad, with three-quarters giving this a positive rating (global: 61%). However, while worldwide 24% consider this factor very good in their country of residence, just 18% feel the same in Taiwan. Finally, about nine out of ten expats in Taiwan (91%) are overall satisfied with the local transport infrastructure, compared to 63% globally.

Austria Impresses with Its Clean Air and Healthcare

Austria came in third place in 2014 and 2015 and has now inched up one spot to come in second in the Quality of Life Index 2016. This small European country comes in first in the Health & Well-Being subcategory. Expats there are enthusiastic about the quality of the environment (e.g. water, air), with 96% giving it a positive rating. Moreover, only 3% have something negative to say about it, compared to 20% globally. The quality of the medical care is rated as very good by 38% and 34% are also completely satisfied with its affordability.

The country also scores well in the Travel & Transport subcategory. Here, a staggering 72% rate the transport infrastructure as very good. The country ranks third for the opportunity to travel, with 92% overall happy with this aspect. Lastly, Austria proves itself to be a safe and peaceful place, with 93% giving it a positive rating for personal safety and 95% for peacefulness.

These excellent results are somewhat tempered by Austria’s average results in the Personal Happiness and Leisure Options subcategories, where it ranks 31st and 22nd out of 67 countries, respectively. It seems that especially the climate and weather is an area where expats living in Austria aren’t quite as impressed: seven in ten expats are overall content with this factor, but another 17% are unhappy.

Japan Leads in Transport and Peacefulness

Japan, which came in seventh place in 2015, has now earned a spot on the podium with its third place. This island country stands out for its peacefulness, which is surpassed by none. Less than 1% of respondents (0.7%) give this factor a negative rating. Japan is doing similarly well in terms of personal safety, with 79% rating it very good, more than twice the global average of 38%.

Expats in Japan are also impressed with the country’s transport infrastructure, where it comes in first. Eight in ten respondents rate the transport infrastructure as excellent, while globally only 29% feel the same. In fact, less than 1% give this factor a negative rating (global: 25%)! On the other hand, however, expats are less enthusiastic about the opportunity to travel. The country only lands on 24th place for this factor. Keeping Japan’s relatively isolated geographical position in mind, this is perhaps not too surprising.

When it comes to the quality of medical care, 82% of expats rate this favorably, compared to 62% worldwide. Around three-quarters (76%) are also pleased with the affordability of healthcare and 31% even think it is very good (ten percentage points more than the global average of 21%).

Singapore and Ecuador Suffer Losses

The winner of the Quality of Life Index in 2015, Singapore, dropped down to eighth place this year. Although it still ranks first in the Travel & Transport subcategory, it took hits in most of the other ones. In some parts, this can be explained by this year’s restructuring of the setup of the Quality of Life Index, with for example Singapore’s below average results in regard to the costs of medical care — only 36% rate this factor positively — carrying slightly more weight than in 2015. However, Singapore has also simply received worse results for some factors. For instance, whereas in 2015, 20% of expats in Singapore said they were completely satisfied with their socializing and leisure activities, in 2016, only 14% are still of this opinion.

Ecuador came in second place in the 2015 Quality of Life Index. In 2016, it couldn’t hold on to this high ranking, and dropped back down to 18th place, where it also was in 2014. The country did worse in the Travel & Transport subcategory, falling from 14th to 22nd place, with expats there less likely to say that opportunities to travel are excellent (46% vs. 61% in 2015). Ecuador similarly lost ground in the other subcategories of this index.

Nigeria has come in at last place in the Quality of Life Index for the past three years. Kuwait was second to last in 2014 and 2015, and third to last in 2016. This year, Mozambique comes in second to last place, although it didn’t do much better in the past, ranking 61st out of 64 countries in 2015.

Oman and Cyprus: Living Standards Looking Up

Oman is up from 48th out of 64 to 32nd place out of 67 countries in this year’s Quality of Life Index. It has quite good rankings for personal safety (57% say it’s very good), political stability (46%), and peacefulness (62%). It also does a lot better in terms of personal happiness, with almost one-quarter of expats in Oman (24%) very happy this year, up from only 13% in 2015.

Cyprus has risen from 41st to 28th spot, mostly due to gains in the Leisure Options subcategory (14th from 30th place) and the Personal Happiness subcategory (21st from 45th place).

Weaker Performances for Ecuador and Israel

Ecuador, which is discussed above, is the biggest loser in this year’s Quality of Life Index, falling 16 places. Israel is down from 15th to 29th place. The effects of splitting up the Health, Safety & Well-Being subcategory — where it ranked 25th in 2015 — into two subcategories can be seen quite clearly here: although Israel does alright in terms of health and well-being, coming in 5th place, it holds a dismal 57th place in the Safety & Security subcategory. Other countries that lost ground this year are China, Romania, and South Africa, which each dropped down ten spots in the ranking.

Further Reading