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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

First-Class Quality of Life with a Stable Economy in Oceania

Expats in New Zealand and Australia are happy with the quality of life and work-life balance on offer. But it is not all plain sailing: the cost of living in both countries continues to be rated poorly.
  • It’s very difficult to live there without speaking the local language.
  • Over nine out of ten expat parents rate children’s safety positively.
  • Both countries are in the top 15 for quality of life and working abroad.
  • New Zealand ranks 5th for digital life.
  • Expats in both countries experience a high cost of living.

Expats Ease into Life Down Under

When it comes to the overall ranking, Australia is in fact one of 2018’s biggest winners: it has improved across all the main indices, including the Ease of Settling In Index, where it moved into the top 20, from 31st in 2017 to 19th in 2018. New Zealand comes in only slightly behind Australia in 22nd position for ease of settling in.

Over seven in ten respondents agree that it is generally easy to settle down in Australia (72%) and New Zealand (74%), while a similar percentage state that they do not struggle to get used to the local culture. A significant proportion of expats in Australia and New Zealand (38% and 31%, respectively) have even acquired local citizenship in their respective host country since moving. In addition, more than half believe that it is easy to make local friends (55% in Australia, 53% in New Zealand), with over three-quarters rating attitudes towards foreign residents positively (76% and 79%, respectively). One French expat shares how they “have been astonished by the people in Australia, their kindness and welcoming attitude everywhere and anywhere”.

I have been astonished by the people in Australia, their kindness and welcoming attitude everywhere and anywhere.

However, both Australia and New Zealand perform badly when it comes to living in the country without speaking the language, ranking 59th and 55th, respectively. Four in five respondents in Australia and 68% in New Zealand agree that learning the local language is generally not challenging, a result that may be somewhat biased, though, as the Expat Insider survey was conducted in English. Just 22% of expats in Australia and 26% in New Zealand agree that it is easy to live in these respective countries without speaking the local language. In fact, around three in ten find it very difficult to live in Australia (30%) or New Zealand (34%) without local language skills, compared to the global average of just 16%.

Quality Education Makes for Happy Families

Australia comes in at a very respectable 17th place out of 50 countries in the Family Life Index, while New Zealand takes an impressive 10th place. Both countries perform well when it comes to families’ well-being, ranking in the top 10 for this subcategory. Over nine in ten expat parents in Australia (91%) and New Zealand (92%) agree that attitudes towards families are generally friendly.

The vast majority (91% in Australia, 96% in New Zealand) rates the availability of children’s leisure activities positively, compared to the global average of 74%. Similarly, over nine in ten parents in both countries believe that children’s safety and well-being are generally good (91% in Australia and 92% in New Zealand for both factors). In fact, just 3% of expat parents in Australia and 4% in New Zealand are unsatisfied with family life in general.

In terms of the availability and quality of education, both countries do well — around eight in ten expats with dependent children are by and large satisfied with the quality of education in Australia (79%) and New Zealand (81%). However, while 68% of expat parents in Australia believe that education is readily available, a total of 77% in New Zealand say the same. New Zealand also outperforms Australia for affordability of education: just 52% of expat parents in Australia agree that education is easy to afford, compared to two-thirds in New Zealand.

Only the Best Life for Expats in Oceania

Over a fifth say the main reason for the move to Australia (22%) and New Zealand (20%) was a better quality of life, and they don’t seem to have been disappointed. Australia ranks 8th out of 68 countries when it comes to quality of life, while New Zealand just misses out on a top 10 position, placing 11th. Unsurprisingly, over three-quarters of respondents in both countries (85% in Australia, 77% in New Zealand) rate the weather and climate positively. An impressive 59% of expats in Australia and 56% in New Zealand even agree that the quality of the environment is excellent, compared to the global average of just 34%. Leisure activities are also rated positively by a vast majority of respondents (90% Australia, 92% New Zealand).

Around eight in ten expats in the Oceania region (81% in Australia, 80% in New Zealand) agree that the quality of medical care is generally high, although this striking result is tempered by the fact that just over six in ten (64% and 65%, respectively) believe that the healthcare is affordable — Australia ranks 31st and New Zealand 27th out of 68 countries for this factor. The level of personal safety and political stability go some way to make up for this: over nine out of ten expats in both countries rate personal safety (91% and 97%) and peacefulness (94% and 97%) positively, while 79% in Australia and 96% in New Zealand believe there is a good level of political stability in these respective countries.

New Zealand Dominates Digital Life Rankings

New Zealand ranks 5th in the new Digital Life subcategory of the Quality of Life Index, and Australia 14th. Over nine in ten expats (91% in Australia, 96% in New Zealand) agree that there is generally unrestricted online access to services. The vast majority in Australia and New Zealand rates the availability of cashless payment options (95% in Australia, 99% in New Zealand), of online administrative and government services (83%, 91%), and of easily accessible local mobile phone numbers (94%, 98%) positively, compared to the global averages of 78%, 55%, and 86%, respectively. High-speed internet access, on the other hand, still seems to leave room for improvement, with New Zealand ranking 35th and Australia even 55th out of 68 countries for this single factor.

I struggle a bit with a feeling of isolation in New Zealand. Travel to other countries, including my home country where my family lives, is quite expensive and would take a lot of time.

Expats in both countries are also less satisfied with the transportation infrastructure: while 72% of respondents in Australia and 67% in New Zealand rate the opportunity to travel positively, this is below the global average of 82%. In the experience of one US American expat in New Zealand: “I struggle a bit with a feeling of isolation. Travel to other countries, including my home country where my family lives, is quite expensive and would take a lot of time.” Similarly, while 69% of expats in Australia are satisfied with the transportation infrastructure, a reflection of the global average of 68%, less than half of the respondents in New Zealand (49%) feel the same way, and over a third (36%) rate this factor negatively.

High Quality of Life Meets High Cost of Living

The high quality of life associated with Australia and New Zealand comes at a price as well: New Zealand ranks 58th for personal finances and 54th for cost of living. While Australia has improved in both areas since 2017, it still ranks 40th for personal finances and 50th for cost of living. Over half the respondents in New Zealand (53%) and over two in five in Australia (43%) rate the general cost of living in their respective country negatively.

Three in five or more (67% in Australia, 60% in New Zealand) are still satisfied with their financial situation, and upwards from seven in ten (76%, 70%) agree that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to cover the costs of everyday life. These results may reflect the above-average earnings of respondents in the region: 47% of expats in New Zealand and 49% in Australia report a gross annual household income of 75,000 USD or more, compared to the global average of 36%.

Stable Economy and Job Security

Both Australia and New Zealand make it into the top 15 of the Working Abroad Index. Over three-quarters of respondents (76% in Australia, 79% in New Zealand) rate the state of their respective host country’s economy positively. Upwards from seven in ten (70%, 75%) are largely satisfied with their work-life balance, while around two-thirds (66%, 69%) are generally happy with their jobs.

Expats in New Zealand seem to feel more secure in their jobs, though, with 71% rating this factor positively, compared to 63% in Australia. However, in terms of career prospects, 66% of respondents in Australia are generally satisfied, compared to 58% in New Zealand.

Further Reading