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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

A Closer Look at Asia

In 2020, over 15,000 expats shared their take on life abroad. Find out what they had to say about the topics environment & sustainability in Asia.

11. Taiwan

Out of all destinations in Asia, Taiwan (11th out of 60 worldwide) ranks highest in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. It performs best in the Products & Utilities and the Policies & People subcategories, with an 8th place for each. Regarding products and utilities, expats are especially happy with the waste management and recycling infrastructure (92% vs. 60% globally), and four in five (80%) rate the availability of green goods and services positively (vs. 63% globally). When it comes to policies and people, 81% of respondents perceive the Taiwanese government as supportive of policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). Additionally, nearly three in four expats (74%) also consider the population to be very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). Taiwan does not perform quite as well in the Quality of Environment subcategory (24th), showing rather mixed results. On the one hand, expats rate the water and sanitation infrastructure positively (84% vs. 72% globally), and they like the natural environment (94% happy vs. 82% globally). However, the country lags behind as far its air quality is concerned (57% satisfied vs. 62% globally). A US American expat in Taipei explains: “The air pollution is getting worse because it is too crowded.

19. Singapore

Coming in at 19th place out of 60 countries in total, Singapore lands safely in the upper third of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. It does best in the Policies & People subcategory (17th), thanks to a government that appears to support an environmentally friendly agenda. In fact, 77% of the survey participants think so (vs. 55% globally). However, just 40% of expats think that the population is very interested in environmental issues, which is eight percentage points below the global average (48%). Regarding the Products & Utilities subcategory (18th), 72% of expats rate the energy supply positively (vs. 62% globally). More than five in eight respondents (64%) are also happy with the local waste management and recycling measures (vs. 60% globally). On the other hand, expats have a less positive view of the city-state’s natural environment (45th), with 13% rating it negatively (vs. 9% globally). This results in a lower ranking in the Quality of Environment subcategory (20th), and an expat from India comments that “the natural and environmentally friendly spots are limited.” However, this does not affect the air quality, as a majority of respondents (71%) rate it positively (vs. 62% globally). Finally, Singapore ranks highest among expats for its water and sanitation infrastructure (6th), with 90% of respondents happy with this factor (vs. 72% globally).

25. Japan

Japan ranks 25th out of 60 destinations in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. Similar to the respondents in Singapore, most expats in Japan (92%) are happy with the local water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 72% globally), and 69% are also satisfied with the air quality (vs. 62% globally). Due to these results, the country comes in at 16th place in the Quality of Environment subcategory. A Malaysian expat points out the “high quality of life due to clean air and water, as well as many natural recreational places” as her favorite things about living in Tokyo. In fact, 84% of respondents rate the natural environment positively. However, this is just two percentage points above the global average (82%), which results in a mediocre 33rd rank for this factor. When it comes to the Products & Utilities subcategory (17th), expats are particularly happy with waste management and recycling (85% vs. 60% globally), while just 50% are satisfied with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 63% globally). Japan ranks below average in the Policies & People subcategory (34th), with only 33% of expats considering the population to be very concerned about environmental issues (vs. 55% globally). Additionally, more than one in four respondents (27%) think that the Japanese government does not support policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally).

37. Russia* 

Coming in at 37th place in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, Russia appears in the lower half of the league table. It performs best in the Policies & People subcategory (36th), although its government is not rated very favorably: according to 37% of the respondents, it does not support green policies (vs. 25% globally). And an even larger share (39%) does not think there is a lot of environmental awareness among the local population (vs. 30% globally). With regard to the Quality of Environment subcategory (38th), the natural environment is a highlight for 88% of expats who give this factor a positive rating (vs. 82% globally). “Saint Petersburg is absolutely beautiful,” a US American expat explains, “there are many parks and green spaces here, and the canals and the coast make it even better.” However, only 63% of expats are satisfied with the quality of water and sanitation in Russia’s cities (vs. 72% globally). Lastly, the country ranks just as low in the Products & Utilities subcategory (38th): respondents do not seem very happy with the energy supply (50% dissatisfied vs. 62% globally) and the waste management and recycling infrastructure (43% vs. 60% globally).

* The division of countries is based on their geographic location. Given that three-quarters of Russia are on the Asian continent, it is counted as an Asian country in this report.

40. Malaysia

Malaysia comes in at 40th place in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking overall, showing a below-average performance for nearly all rating factors. It comes 39th out of 60 in the Quality of Environment subcategory. Here, the only factor that is rated above the global average is the natural environment, with six in seven respondents (86%) judging it favorably (vs. 82% globally). On the other hand, expats in Malaysia are less satisfied with the local water and sanitation infrastructure (69% happy vs. 72% globally), and the same applies to the air quality (52% satisfied vs. 62% globally). An Australian expat currently living in Kuala Lumpur says: “I have environmental concerns about the air quality and waste disposal.” In fact, only 42% of respondents rate the waste management and recycling measures positively (vs. 60% globally), and fewer than half of the respondents (49%) are happy with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 63% globally). This means the country lands in a rather poor 41st place in the Products & Utilities subcategory. Malaysia also performs rather poorly in the Policies & People subcategory (43rd), with 42% of expats saying that the local population does not appear to be very interested in environmental issues (vs. 30% globally). On top of that, one out of three respondents (33%) states that the government does not support policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally).

41. South Korea

Following right behind Malaysia, South Korea comes in at 41st place out of 60 destinations. It ranks 50th in the Quality of Environment subcategory, with an especially poor performance for its air quality (59th) — only India (60th) does worse. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents (66%) are unsatisfied with this factor (vs. 24% globally), and an expat from the Philippines states that “the air quality is rather horrible.” South Korea also lands in the bottom 10 for its natural environment (51st), with 16% of respondents rating it negatively (vs. 9% globally). On the upside, about six in seven expats (85%) are happy with the quality of water and sanitation (vs. 72% globally). The country comes in at 40th place in the Policies & People subcategory, with only 28% of expats perceiving the population as very interested in environmental issues (vs. 48% globally). And not even half the respondents (48%) think that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). Finally, South Korea has better results in the Products & Utilities subcategory (29th), with expats giving the local waste management and recycling measures an above-average rating (69% satisfied vs. 60% globally). However, only 47% of respondents are happy with the availability of green goods and services in South Korea (vs. 63% globally).

50. China

Narrowly avoiding a place the bottom 10, China comes 50th out of 60 destinations worldwide in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking. Its weakest subcategory is the quality of environment (54th), where the country does end up among the bottom 10. In fact, two out of seven expats (29%) are unsatisfied with China’s natural environment — more than three times the global average (9%). The air quality is not good either, according to 52% of the respondents (vs. 24% globally). A US American expat points out that “the air quality is terrible, and people are tightly packed together“. The country only ranks slightly better in the Products & Utilities subcategory (40th). Less than half the respondents are satisfied with the energy supply (45% vs. 62% globally) and the availability of green goods and services (49% vs. 63% globally). The Policies & People subcategory (37th) is China’s strongest point. And yet, fewer than half the expats (47% ) think that the government is actively involved in supporting environmentally friendly policies (vs. 55% globally), and only 32% agree that the local population is very interested in environmental topics (vs. 48% globally).

51.  Hong Kong

The first to place in the bottom 10, Hong Kong ranks 51st out of 60 destinations worldwide, performing poorly across the board. It does best in the Quality of Environment subcategory (48th), which includes the two highest-ranking factors: the natural environment (37th) and the water and sanitation infrastructure (37th). More than two in three expats (68%) rate the latter positively — this is, however, still below the global average of 72%. Hong Kong performs a lot worse for air quality (55th), which results in a lower ranking for the entire subcategory: 69% of expats rate the air quality negatively, compared to 24% globally. When it comes to the Products & Utilities subcategory (50th), 36% of expats are not pleased with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 21% globally), and two in seven (29%) rate the energy supply negatively (vs. 18% globally). Hong Kong narrowly misses the bottom 10 for waste management and recycling (50th). A Hungarian expat comments: “The government does not do anything for the environment. Instead, they still have landfill sites. And food waste is also a huge problem.” Hong Kong does rank among the bottom 10 worldwide in the Policies & People subcategory (51st), performing even worse with regard to the population’s interest in environmental issues (55th). Moreover, 45% of expats think that the local government is not supportive of policies the environment (vs. 25% globally).

54.  Philippines

Ranking in 54th place out of 60 countries worldwide, the Philippines places in the bottom 10 for each subcategory. It performs worst for products and utilities (56th) — only Kuwait (57th), Indonesia (58th), Egypt (59th), and India (60th) rank even lower. Four in nine expats (44%) are dissatisfied with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 21% globally), and 16% even rate it as very bad (vs. 5% globally). Expats are not happy with the energy supply (56th) and the waste management and recycling infrastructure (55th) either. An Australian expat thinks that there is “no sense of stopping rubbish”. The Quality of Environment subcategory (53rd) includes the only two factors that are not in the bottom 10: natural environment (47th) and air quality (48th). But the water and sanitation infrastructure (57th) lowers the subcategory’s general ranking: 37% of expats are not satisfied with this factor (15% globally) — only Kenya (58th), Indonesia (59th), and India (60th) perform worse. When it comes to the Policies & People subcategory (52nd), 45% of expats think that the government does not support policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally), and half the expats (50%) agree that the population is not very interested in environmental issues (vs. 30% globally). A British expat claims that there is “no environmental care”.

55.  Thailand

Just like the Philippines, Thailand (55th) also ranks among the bottom 10 worldwide in each subcategory. The country performs best in the Products & Utilities subcategory (53rd), ranking 52nd out of 60 for both the energy supply and the waste management and recycling measures. An Australian expat mentions “the filth and garbage left lying around” as things they dislike about living in Thailand. The country also seems to lag behind when it comes to sustainable products: three in seven expats (43%) are dissatisfied with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 21% globally), and 10% even rate it as very bad (vs. 5% globally). Thailand comes in at 56th place in both the Policies & People and Quality of Environment subcategories. The latter features the only factor for which Thailand does not land among the bottom 10: natural environment (48th). Almost two-fifths of the respondents (37%) are not satisfied with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 15% globally), and two-thirds (67%) are unhappy with the air quality (vs. 24% globally). A US American lists the “air pollution and the government's inability to enforce air pollution laws” as their least favorite aspect of expat life in Thailand. In fact, over half the respondents (53%) agree that the government is not supportive of policies to protect the environment, more than double the global average of 25%. Another 54% of expats consider the population not to be very interested in environmental issues (vs. 30% globally). 

56.  Vietnam

Vietnam ranks 56th out of 60 countries in the Environment & Sustainability Ranking overall. This includes a disappointing 57th place in the Quality of Environment subcategory, the country’s weakest point. Almost seven in ten expats (69%) have a negative opinion of the air quality in Vietnam (vs. 24% globally), and only 38% are happy with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 72% globally). Vietnam ranks best for its natural environment, but it still ends up in 50th place out of 60 worldwide, with its share of negative ratings twice as large as the global average (18% vs. 9% globally). The country comes 54th for the Policies & People subcategory, with only 26% of expats agreeing that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 55% globally). A Dutch expat mentions “air pollution, noise, bad waste management, and rodents” as things he does not like about living in Vietnam. In the Products & Utilities subcategory, Vietnam comes in at 55th place. Almost half the expats (47%) are dissatisfied with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 21% globally), and 37% rate the energy supply negatively (vs. 18% globally).

57.  Indonesia

In the Environment & Sustainability Ranking, Indonesia comes in at 57th place out of 60 destinations worldwide. The Southeast Asian country comes 58th for the Products & Utilities subcategory, with three out of four expats (75%) rating the local waste management and recycling efforts negatively (vs. 28% globally). A German expat claims: “There is no waste management. All rubbish is going to the rivers and into the ocean.” Additionally, over two in five expats (43%) are unhappy with the energy supply in Indonesia (vs. 18% globally). In the Policies & People subcategory, Indonesia ranks 57th out of 60, with as many as 62% of expats agreeing that the population is just not very interested in environmental issues (vs. 30% globally). Indonesia performs best in the Quality of Environment subcategory (55th). While half of the survey participants (50%) are dissatisfied with the local water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 15% globally), the ranking is boosted a little by more than three-quarters (76%) rating the natural environment positively. However, this is still six percentage points below the global average (82%).

60.  India

India is the worst-performing country overall and comes last in all three subcategories of the Environment & Sustainability Ranking as well. Moreover, the South Asian country comes in last place for six out of the eight rating factors featured in the survey. With regard to the Products & Utilities subcategory (60th out of 60 destinations worldwide), almost nine in ten expats (87%) are dissatisfied with the waste management and recycling efforts (vs. 28% globally), and nearly three in five respondents (59%) rate the availability of green goods and services negatively (vs. 21% globally). Regarding the Policies and People subcategory (60th), 62% of expats do not agree that India’s government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 25% globally). What is more, 59% think that the local population is not very interested in environmental issues either (vs. 30% globally). This is, however, one factor for which India actually ranks ahead of other destinations — i.e. Egypt (59th) and Kuwait (60th). The other one is the natural environment, for which India ranks 59th and Kuwait comes in 60th place. Nevertheless, India still comes last worldwide in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (60th), as 82% of expats rate the air quality poorly (vs. 24% globally), with 55% even saying that it is very bad (vs. 7% globally). A South African expat mentions the pollution and poor air quality” as what she does not like about living in India. Additionally, 69% of expats in India are unhappy with the water and sanitation infrastructure (vs. 15% globally).