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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Where Expat Families Feel at Home

Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic remain at the top of the ranking, but there are some unexpected winners and losers in the 2017 results.
  • Finland remains top of the Family Life Index; Austria and Israel don’t make the top 10.
  • Childcare is still quite affordable in Sweden, but the quality of education suffers.
  • Education and leisure options make the Czech Republic a great place for kids.
  • Bahrain, Denmark, and Spain are the big winners in the Family Life Index.

Methodology

In 2017, 45 countries are included in the Family Life Index. Each country has a minimum sample size of 40 respondents who are raising dependent children abroad. This index covers six different subcategories: availability of childcare & education, costs of childcare & education, quality of education, family well-being, childcare options, and options for children’s education.

No Surprises in the Top 3

Not much has changed in the top and bottom ranks of the Family Life Index: Finland, the clear winner in 2016, also takes first place in 2017. The Nordic country receives top scores in all subcategories. An impressive 72% of respondents living in Finland with their kids think that the education system is excellent, compared to a global average of 26%. Only 56% say the same for runner-up, Singapore, putting Finland clearly in the lead. In fact, one respondent even deemed Finland “one of the best places on earth to raise kids”.

Finland is one of the best places on earth to raise kids.

The vast majority (91%) is satisfied with the available leisure options for their children. However, overall Finland only ranks 31st for available leisure activities in general. Whether it’s the cold temperatures and the dark winters, or the fact that the survey participants don’t enjoy the outdoor activities which are so popular in this country, survey results show that leisure options are not Finland’s strong suit. The same is true for Sweden, which takes second place in the 2017 Family Life Index: despite making it to eighth place for available leisure options for children, the country only ranks 32nd in terms of available leisure activities in general.

In Sweden, respondents with children are happy with the affordability of childcare and education. In fact, over six in ten (63%) think childcare is extremely affordable, and 66% have the same opinion on education. While the country does very well overall, it has lost ground in the Quality of Education subcategory, dropping from 29th to 33rd place. Overall, 63% are generally satisfied with the quality of education, fewer than the global average (68%). Almost a quarter (24%) even rate this factor negatively, compared to 16% of respondents with children globally.

The decline in quality has been a problem for a few years now, despite the fact that Sweden spends a large share (7%) of their GDP on education. This result is also reflected in the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which records slightly below-average scores in reading literacy, math, and science among Swedish students.

Kids can be safe and independent in the Czech Republic.

Considered a place where “kids can be safe and independent” by one British respondent, the Czech Republic takes third place in the Family Life Index. The country receives favorable results, especially when it comes to education options, and 88% of expat parents are generally satisfied with this factor. However, in the Family Well-Being subcategory, the country underperforms when it comes to friendliness towards families with kids, coming in 22nd out of 45. On the other hand, the vast majority (92%) is generally satisfied with available leisure activities for kids. Unlike Finland and Sweden, the Czech Republic also performs rather well when it comes to leisure activities in general, ranking 6th out of 65 countries for this factor.

The 2016 Top 5: Where Are They Now?

While there were no big surprises among the top 3, some of 2016’s top countries have experienced a bit of a drop. Both Austria and Israel, which occupied third and fourth place respectively, do not make the top 10 in 2017.

Israel dropped to 12th place in the Expat Insider 2017 survey: 18% of parents are unhappy with the quality of education and 13% are not satisfied with the education options. The cost of childcare also puts a damper on Israel’s popularity among expat parents: 36% of survey respondents with kids rate this factor negatively. The same applies to the availability of education which was rated unfavorably by three in ten.  

Austria occupies 11th place in 2017, dropping seven places compared to the previous year. The Alpine country has lost much of its charm for parents due to the cost and availability of childcare. In 2017, almost one in three (28%) believe that childcare is quite expensive in Austria, and 34% think it is quite difficult to find proper childcare for their little ones.

The Big Winners

In contrast, some countries have shown vast improvements. Survey participants with children are particularly impressed with Bahrain, one of the biggest winners in the Family Life Index. The small country gained 24 ranks, climbing from 34th to 10th place. It made the biggest jump in childcare options, improving by 37 ranks; 81% give this factor a positive rating and 32% are completely satisfied with the country’s childcare options. Bahrain also climbed from 30th to 1st place when it comes to general family life, and improved its friendly attitude towards families with children, gaining 23 ranks. One respondent said: “our children are receiving a high quality of education and exposure to a variety of cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds.”

Denmark also achieves impressive results. Unlike its neighbors up north, Denmark only received mediocre results in the Expat Insider 2016 survey. However, in 2017 Denmark improved by an impressive 19 ranks, climbing from 23rd to 4th place and receiving praise for its “high standards of education” from one Colombian expat. Like Bahrain, it receives better ratings across the board, but particularly for the availability of childcare and education (27th to 6th place), and options for children’s education, gaining 23 ranks.

Spain is safe and child-friendly, and there is a general goodwill among people.

Spain is another big winner in 2017, coming 8th in the overall ranking of the Family Life Index. Although the country still only makes it to 31st place when it comes to quality of education, it has greatly improved in terms of childcare options (80% of parents are generally satisfied), and options for children’s education (76% are positive). Overall, expats with kids appreciate life in Spain for many reasons: “It's safe and child-friendly, and there is a general goodwill among people.”

Full Ranking

Further Reading