Where Happy Expat Families Live
- #1 Finland and #3 Czechia remain in the top 3.
- #2 Austria returns to the top 10 in 2018.
- Austria is also one of the biggest winners, along with Poland, Belgium, and Qatar.
- Japan, South Africa, and Mexico have lost the most places in the Family Life Index.
The Family Life Index includes 50 countries, each with a minimum sample size of 40 expats whose dependent children are living abroad with them. The index covers various factors grouped together into six different subcategories: Availability of Childcare & Education, Cost of Childcare & Education, Quality of Education, Family Well-Being, Childcare Options, and Options for Children’s Education.
A Comeback in the Top 3
Finland is the clear winner of the Family Life Index: the country ranks first across all six subcategories. This is not news, though, as Finland has continually placed first since 2016 and also achieves excellent results for education in the OECD Better Life Index. Expat parents are particularly happy with the availability (81%) and cost (79%) of childcare in Finland, as well as childcare options in general (95%). In fact, more than half (55%) give the latter the best possible rating.
Finland is extremely safe. I never worry about the safety of my family while I'm gone.
However, the most impressive result in the index shows up in the Family Well-Being subcategory: not a single respondent rates children’s safety in Finland negatively, and more than eight in ten (83%) even believe that the country is very safe for their children. One expat parent from the US sums it up: “It is extremely safe. I never worry about the safety of my family while I'm gone.”
In 2017, Austria briefly dropped out of the top 10 in the Family Life Index, only to make it back into the top 3 in 2018. The country is also one of the biggest winners in this index. In the Family Well-Being subcategory, it has vastly improved its position for family life in general: 92% are generally satisfied with this factor.
Moreover, more than half of the expat parents in Austria (51%) are very happy with their children’s well-being, and 56% are completely satisfied with their children’s health. Children’s safety also seems to find favor with expat parents in Austria: more than five in eight (63%) give this factor the best possible rating, and an expat parent from South Africa explains: “Small children can walk to school alone.” Although the country has also improved in terms of locals’ attitude towards families with children, this is the factor where it performs worst: 12% rate it negatively.
Czechia comes in third in the Family Life Index in 2018, placing in the top 3 for the third year in a row. Although having a friendly attitude towards families with children is still one of the factors where the country doesn’t perform well, Czechia has significantly improved: the vast majority of expat parents (91%) are generally happy with this factor. They are also fairly content with the affordability of childcare and education in Czechia: 68% and 80%, respectively, give these factors a positive rating.
Qatar — Where the Kids Are Alright
For the first time in five years, the Middle Eastern country makes it out of the bottom 10 in the Family Life Index. Although Qatar still only shows an average performance, it gains an impressive 19 places for children’s general well-being: 37% of expat parents are completely satisfied with this factor. Another area in which the country is doing well is children’s health — a factor which is considered excellent by 45% of expat parents. An expat father from Egypt echoes this sentiment, as he mentions “children’s healthcare” as one of the things he is most satisfied with in Qatar.
The country also shows some improvement for other factors in the Family Well-Being subcategory: it has climbed from 30th place in 2017 to 13th in 2018 for children’s safety. Just under two-thirds (65%) are extremely happy with this factor. When it comes to family life in general, Qatar has gained eleven places compared to 2017, and four out of five expats with children are generally happy with this factor.
Education and the cost of living are highly expensive in Qatar.
Qatar has also improved by twelve places with regard to quality of education and by eleven for children’s education options in general, compared to 2017. Just over three in four expat parents (76%) are generally happy with the quality of education, while 67% feel the same way about the education options in Qatar. Still, both childcare and education come at a price: 20% and 32%, respectively, give their affordability the worst possible rating. “Education and the cost of living are highly expensive here,” an Indian expat mother points out. One of the reasons could be the fact that many expat parents — 65%, to be precise — send their children to international schools, which don’t come cheap.
Better Education in Poland
Poland has gained nine ranks, which makes it the second biggest winner in the Family Life Index. This is also the index in which the country has shown the biggest improvement overall. For example, Poland has gained 20 places when it comes to options for children’s education. Three in four expat parents are generally happy with this factor. “Our children are in an incredible international school. Giving them this opportunity in life is valuable to me,” an expat mom from South Africa says.
Moreover, education options for expat families seem to have become more numerous and easily available. Since 2017, Poland has improved by 15 places for this factor, with 55% of expat parents giving it a favorable rating.
In Poland, my kids are getting a world-class education and learning to be multilingual.
The country has also made a significant leap when it comes to the quality of education and has jumped from 37th to 19th place for this factor. In fact, 73% give it a positive rating, and 34% are completely satisfied. One British expat in Poland says: “My kids are getting a world-class education and learning to be multilingual.”
Belgium — The Place for Healthy Families
Belgium has only gained three places in the general ranking but improved by eight ranks in the Family Life Index in 2018, making it back into the top 10. The country shows significant improvement for several factors in the index. The most impressive example is perhaps the leap Belgium took when it comes to its residents’ friendly attitude towards families with children, gaining 21 places and making it out of the bottom 10 for this factor. In fact, 40% of expat parents are completely satisfied with the attitude towards families with children in Belgium.
Other notable changes in the Family Well-Being subcategory are the improvements for children’s health — a factor 94% of parents rate favorably — and children’s general well-being, which receives 96% positive ratings.
The country also performs a lot better in terms of childcare: 85% rate the childcare options in Belgium favorably, compared to 73% in 2017. Expat parents are also quite happy with the availability of childcare: 66% believe that childcare options are numerous and easily available.
Not the Best Places for Families
Japan, which ranks 35th in the Family Life Index, receives only average results in the Family Well-Being subcategory, dropping from 9th to 24th place. It has dropped a stunning 29 places regarding locals’ attitude towards families with children; moreover, it has lost 16 places for children’s general well-being, as well as 15 for children’s safety, dropping out of the top 10 for all of these factors.
One cannot freely choose a daycare in Japan.
More than one in four expat parents (26%) are very unhappy with the availability of childcare in Japan. One father from the US laments that “the government decides who gets childcare and what schools children attend. One cannot freely choose a daycare, and many people in Yokohama are forced to be single-income families due to being denied daycare.” That being said, the results aren’t quite as dire as they may seem: 65% of expats with children are in fact very happy with their children’s safety in Japan, and 82% appreciate their children’s well-being.
Expat families in South Africa are also less than impressed. The country has lost 13 places in the Family Life Index since 2017. After ranking in the top 10 for the affordability of childcare since 2015, South Africa only makes it to 24th place in 2018. In fact, 38% of expat parents give this factor a negative rating. They are also not satisfied with the availability of education in South Africa: 40% are generally unhappy with this factor. When it comes to children’s safety, the country has ranked second to last since 2016. In fact, 38% rate this factor negatively. “The safety issues with children in the mix are a constant source of stress,” according to an expat from the US.
Mexico has similarly lost ground: ranking 17th in 2017, it is in 29th place out of 50 destinations in 2018. The main problem for expat parents in Mexico seems to be the fact that childcare and education options are not as easily available as in 2017. In fact, 36% and 29% of expat parents, respectively, give the availability of childcare and education a negative rating. Moreover, 16% rate their children’s general well-being negatively. The country is the recurring subject of travel warnings due to high crime rates in some areas. Moreover, it is prone to earthquakes and has been hit hard by a 7.2-magnitude quake at the beginning of 2018. This might have had some influence on these results; however, Mexico has also placed among the bottom 10 for children’s safety since 2016.
- OECD Better Life Index. Finland.
- US Department of State — Bureau of Consular Affairs. Mexico. 22 Nov 2017.
- The New York Times. Earthquake Strikes in Oaxaca State, Mexico, Stirring Fear. 16 Feb 2018.
- Expat Insider 2018 — Finland, Israel, and Czechia Top for Family Well-Being
- Expat Insider 2018 — Safe & Healthy Family-Friendly Living in the Nordic Countries
- Expat Insider 2018 — Austria Offers a Healthy and Family-Friendly Environment
- Expat Insider 2018 — Living the High Life in Czechia
- Expat Insider 2017 — Where Expat Families Feel at Home
- Expats in Finland
- Expats in Austria
- Expats in Czechia
- Expats in Qatar
- Expats in Poland