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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The Best & Worst Places for Expats in 2016

The newcomer Taiwan is this year’s winner, followed by an aspiring Malta, while Ecuador only just retains its place on the podium. Kuwait, Greece, and Nigeria remain at the bottom of the pack.
  • Taiwan named best expat destination in the world
  • Malta pushes Mexico off the podium
  • Taiwan and Malta perform well in all areas of expat life
  • Ecuador loses ground in terms of Working Abroad and Quality of Life
  • Kuwait, Greece, and Nigeria remain last on the list

Expat Destinations: The Top Ten for 2016

Top Expat Destinations 2016 — infographic

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Taiwan: Out with the Old, in with the New

The newcomer Taiwan has ousted two-time champion Ecuador to win this year’s survey. In addition to claiming 1st place out of 67 countries in the overall ranking, it is in the top ten for every individual index! Taiwan holds first place in the Quality of Life and Personal Finance Indices, impressing with the quality and affordability of its healthcare and the enviable financial situation of expats living there.

The Asian Tiger scores second place in the Working Abroad Index. Over one-third of expats in Taiwan (34%) are completely satisfied with their jobs, more than double the global average of 16%. Expats are similarly enthusiastic about their work-life balance (30%) and job security (34%).

This small island country also holds second place for overall satisfaction with life abroad, with 93% voicing their general contentment. Only Spain has higher ratings here. It comes as no surprise then, that a majority of expats in Taiwan (64%) plan to stay there longer than three years; with more than half of these (36% in total) even considering staying there forever.

Taiwan performs worst in the Ease of Settling In Index, although it still comes in a respectable tenth. Here, its first place in the Friendliness subcategory is evened out by much lower results in the Language subcategory, where it only comes in 45th. Nine in ten expats give the friendliness of local residents towards foreigners a positive rating, compared to only 65% worldwide. However, the language barrier does pose some problems. Only 23% overall agree that learning the local language is easy (global 37%) and about one-third (32%) are of the opinion that living in Taiwan without learning at least some of the local tongue is problematic. It seems that many expats anticipated this challenge, with 35% naming the language barrier as a possible disadvantage they thought about before the move.

Taiwan is the only country in the top three with enough expats living abroad with their dependent children for it to feature in the Family Life Index, coming in 8th out of 45 countries. In fact, 43% of the respondents there have dependent children living with them, over twice the global average of 21%. It does best in terms of the friendly attitude towards families with children, with 58% rating this as very good (39% worldwide). However, for both childcare and education, only 3% of expat parents completely agree that these are easy to afford.

Malta: Fun in the Sun

Malta, a newcomer in last year’s survey, has moved up one spot to claim second place, thus pushing Mexico, last year’s second-place winner, off the podium completely, but only down to fourth place. Similar to Taiwan, Malta is also in the top ten for every index that factors into the overall ranking.

This Mediterranean country performs best in the Ease of Settling In Index, coming in fourth place. It is first in terms of settling down, getting used to the local culture, and making new friends. Over four in ten expats (41%) say it is very easy to settle down in Malta, well over twice the global average of 16%.

Malta fell from first place to fifth this year in the Working Abroad Index. It seems that expats working there are not as pleased with their work-life balance as they were in 2015, with only 22% completely satisfied (vs. 27% in 2015), which is still slightly above the global average of 17%. This is despite, or perhaps due to, the fact that 28% are part-time workers.

In the Personal Finance Index, Malta has made a quite significant jump, from 42nd to 6th place. One-quarter of respondents even quote complete satisfaction with their financial situation (global 15%). This is despite the fact that one-third of working expats say their income is generally lower than back home.

Malta holds sixth place in the Quality of Life Index, with exceptional ratings for the climate and weather. Three-quarters of expats say they couldn’t be more pleased with it, and not a single respondent has something negative to say! With such glowing results, it’s perhaps no surprise that almost half the expats in Malta are planning to stay forever (49%), significantly higher than the global average of 31%.

Ecuador: Struggling Economy, Sinking Ratings

After two years at first place, Ecuador has lost its crown. Nevertheless, it has still retained a spot on the podium with its third place in 2016. It saw losses in each index, some more striking than others.

Ecuador lost the most ground in the Working Abroad Index. In 2014 it ranked 5th out of 61 and in 2015 it held 7th out of 64, but this year it comes in at a very mediocre 30th out of 67 countries. This is mostly due to its dismal finish in the Job Security subcategory, where it comes in 50th place (it was 22nd in 2015). Overall, only half of expats in Ecuador are satisfied with their level of job security, just under the global average of 56%. Even worse, only 6%, about one-third of the global average of 17%, believe the state of Ecuador’s economy to be very good. As oil is Ecuador’s key export, its low price has had adverse effects on the economy. While occurring after the survey was conducted, the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck in April 2016 has not helped matters since.

In the Personal Finance Index, Ecuador saw a slight drop from first place in 2014 and 2015 to third place in 2016. Despite the dreary state of the economy, 27% of expats there are very happy with their financial situation, almost double the global average of 15%. This may be because 41% of survey respondents in Ecuador are retirees and may not be relying on Ecuador’s economy for their income. This assumption is bolstered by the fact that only 13% of retirees were living in Ecuador prior to their retirement.

The Quality of Life Index is another area where Ecuador lost ground this year, with a drop to 18th place from 2nd. Only 22% of this year’s respondents feel very safe in Ecuador (38% worldwide) and an average percentage (69% vs. 63% globally) are satisfied with the transport infrastructure. The country continues to rank well for the quality (30%) and affordability of healthcare (31%), however, with around three in ten considering both factors excellent against global rates of 23% and 21%.

Ecuador’s eighth place in the Ease of Settling In Index helps its overall ranking, as does its third place for how satisfied expats are with life abroad in general there. One-quarter couldn’t be happier, compared to only 15% globally who feel the same about life in their host country.

The Bottom Three: No Surprises Here

The three countries at the end of the list in 2016 have remained stable: Kuwait, Greece, and Nigeria. Kuwait has remained steadily at the bottom for three years running. It even managed to go down in each index this year, most notably in the Working Abroad and Personal Finance Indices.

Greece also came in second to last in 2015 while in 2014 it held the third to last spot. It did better in the Ease of Settling In Index this year (up to 27th from 41st) but worse in all the other indices that factor into the overall ranking. It’s now last place for the Working Abroad and Personal Finance Indices and ranks a dismal 43rd out of 45 countries in the Family Life Index.

Nigeria also came in third to last in 2015, and in 2014 it was fifth to last. This year it holds last place for the Quality of Life and the Cost of Living Indices. Compared to 2015, it does slightly better in the Ease of Settling In Index this year (from 42nd to 39th place), but much worse in the Personal Finance Index (from 10th to 32nd).

Further Reading