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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

A Happy Expat Life in Oceania Comes at a Price

Oceania offers a high quality of life for expat singles and families alike, but health and happiness can come at a serious price.
  • Over 70% happy with quality of healthcare
  • Expats struggle with cost of living despite high incomes
  • Weary workers in Australia, happy employees in New Zealand
  • Different experiences settling in
  • More than four-fifths happy with family life

Top-Notch Quality of Life

At least a quarter of respondents in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) say they moved abroad for a better quality of life, making this the most popular response among expats in the region. They certainly weren’t disappointed: both countries make it into the top 25 of the Quality of Life Index, and the majority of respondents in Australia (51%) and New Zealand (72%) now plan to stay forever.

Expats are happy with the available leisure options, which around nine in ten in both countries rate favorably. Over three-quarters rate the climate and weather positively, or as one British expat in Australia put it, “I wake up happy when the sun is shining”. Low pollution levels also make it easier and more enjoyable to spend time outdoors. Both Australia and New Zealand have some of the lowest air pollution levels in the world, and 88% of respondents in Australia and 90% in New Zealand feel positively about the quality of the environment.

Good healthcare further enhances expats’ quality of life in Oceania. While Australia falls below the global average when it comes to healthcare costs, over seven in ten respondents in both countries still feel positively about the quality of medical care, and over two-fifths are happy with its affordability. This may be because a doctor’s appointment and prescriptions are at least partially subsidized in both countries, and hospital treatments are free of charge. Additionally, both countries spend over nine percent of their GDP on healthcare, leading to a reliable and affordable system.

High Price for the High Life  

New Zealand and Australia rank very poorly in both the Personal Finance and Cost of Living Indices. Despite over two in five respondents in both countries having access to an annual household income of over 75,000 USD, expats down under are unhappy with their personal finances. Over 30% believe that their disposable household income is not enough to cover their daily expenses.

Rental prices and cost of living are far beyond average.

This is not helped by the fact that New Zealand has the second most expensive property prices in the world, with Australia only falling slightly behind in third place. Expats certainly feel this financial drain: over six in ten respondents in Oceania find accommodation unaffordable, and one South African expat in New Zealand even described the cost of living as “horrendous”, while one German in Australia finds that “rental prices and cost of living are far beyond average”.

Varying Employment Experiences

New Zealand performs extremely well in the Working Abroad Index, taking the second spot. Australia, however, falls far behind, ranking 32nd out of 65 countries. New Zealand does decidedly better than Australia in the Job & Career subcategory (8th vs. 46th) as well as the Work-Life Balance subcategory (5th vs. 40th). Though their average full-time working weeks are similar (42.9 hours in Australia and 42.3 in New Zealand), three-quarters of respondents in New Zealand say they are satisfied with their working hours, while only 60% in Australia feel the same way.

Feeling at Home in New Zealand

When it comes to the ease of settling in, New Zealand succeeds once again; four-fifths of respondents in New Zealand find it easy to settle down, however, only 68% in Australia feel the same way. Three cities in New Zealand make it into a list of the 30 friendliest cities in the world. Expats in the country strongly agree, with half the respondents in New Zealand giving the general friendliness of the local population the best possible rating. Over two-thirds (68%) claim that it is easy to make friends, and one Irish expat states, “Everyone is really friendly, and the culture is very chilled out”. In contrast, only 53% of expats in Australia find it easy to make friends.

However, expats in both countries also find it relatively easy to befriend the local residents, with 57% of respondents saying that their social circle is a mix of expats and local residents — nearly ten percentage points higher than the global average of 48%. This may be because there are no (or very few) language barriers when meeting new people, since English is an official language in both countries and the Expat Insider survey was also conducted in English.

Everyone is really friendly, and the culture is very chilled out.

It’s not all simple when it comes to language, however, as the countries perform very differently in the Language subcategory. While New Zealand ranks 9th out of 65, Australia falls behind, taking 32nd place. This is largely because nearly three-quarters of respondents in Australia (74%) believe that it’s difficult to live there without speaking the local language, while only half in New Zealand feel the same way.

Family First Down Under

While New Zealand beats its neighbor in the Family Life Index, ranking 14th out of 45 countries, Australia still takes a respectable 24th place. Life is made easier by the friendly attitude towards families with kids. Over five-sixths of expat parents in both countries are happy with this aspect — one reason why both countries make it into the top 15 of the Family Well-Being subcategory. Expat parents are just as happy with their children’s health and leisure activities: over 80% in both countries rate children’s health positively, while 86% feel the same about available leisure activities for kids.

Parents are also happy with the quality of education, which over 70% rate positively. These two countries have some of the best education systems in the world, and both rank in the top 15 in the Education sub-index of the Legatum Prosperity Index. The top-notch education systems may be one reason why nearly half of expat parents in Australia (49%) and nearly two-thirds in New Zealand (64%) send their children to local state schools, compared to the global average of just one-third.

Family life is not all positive in Oceania, however, as parents in both countries think childcare is expensive. Just over two-fifths of expat parents in New Zealand (41%) believe that it’s affordable, while a mere 8% in Australia feel the same way. Childcare in Oceania is among the most expensive in the world; parents in Australia spend 15.7% of their income on childcare, while those in New Zealand spend 29%, making it the second most expensive childcare worldwide.

Further Reading