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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Russia: Among the Worst Countries for Expats

Russia receives some of its worst results in the Working Abroad Index (52nd), but expats are not only dissatisfied with the state of the local economy.

Top Findings

  • Ranking 56th out of 59 destinations, Russia lands in the bottom 5.
  • A quarter of respondents (25%) are unhappy with their job security in Russia (vs. 20% globally).
  • Russia performs poorly in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (49th).
  • Two-thirds of expats (67%) find it difficult to learn Russian (vs. 42% globally).
  • 27% say their household income is not enough to cover expenses (vs. 23% globally).

An Unsatisfying Working Life for Expats

Out of 59 countries in the Expat Insider 2021 survey, Russia (56th) lands in the bottom 5 — only ahead of South Africa (57th), Italy (58th), and Kuwait (59th). It performs worst in the Working Abroad Index (52nd), with 24% of expats rating the state of the local economy negatively (vs. 19% globally). A quarter of respondents (25%) are also unhappy with their job security in Russia (vs. 20% globally), and just 63% are satisfied with their job in general (vs. 68% globally). A large share of working expats in Russia do so in the fields of education (20% vs. 12% globally) and construction (12% vs. 3% globally). A Nigerian expat shares: “I do not like the low rate of job opportunities.”

I do not like the low rate of job opportunities.

On average, expats with full-time employment in Russia work 43.0 hours per week, just about the same as the global average (43.2 hours per week). However, one in five respondents in Russia (20%) still rates their working hours negatively (vs. 16% globally). Additionally, more than a quarter (26%) are unsatisfied with their work-life balance (vs. 17% globally).

A Low Quality of Life…

Narrowly escaping the bottom 10 in the Quality of Life Index (49th), Russia performs especially poorly in the Quality of the Environment subcategory (49th). Many expats are unhappy with the air quality (31% vs. 20% globally), the water and sanitation infrastructure (21% vs. 12% globally), and the natural environment (14% vs. 8% globally). “I do not like the lack of any meaningful efforts or policies to reduce environmental pollution and to support basic recycling,” shares a US American expat. Another factor that lowers the quality of life for expats in Russia is the climate and weather (53rd), which 40% of expats rate negatively, compared to just 17% globally.

… and a Challenging Culture

With Russia coming in 48th place in the Ease of Settling In Index, 29% of respondents find it difficult to settle down in this country (vs. 22% globally). Just 57% feel at home in the local culture (vs. 63% globally), and 22% describe the population as generally unfriendly (vs. 16% globally). What is more, Russia ends up in the bottom 3 of the Language subcategory (58th), only ahead of Japan (59th). Nearly half the expats (48%) find it difficult to live in Russia’s cities without speaking the local language (vs. 29% globally), and two-thirds (67%) find it difficult to learn Russian (vs. 42% globally). An Algerian expat claims that many “Russians are unable to speak another language, so for those who do not speak Russian, life is difficult.” This may be why the majority of expats (81%) still speaks the local language at least a little (vs. 77% globally), next to 8% for whom Russia is their mother tongue.

For those who do not speak Russian, life is difficult.

Low Income, Mediocre Cost of Living

The country also does poorly in the Personal Finance Index (47th), with 27% of expats dissatisfied with their financial situation (vs. 19% globally). Indeed, 34% of expats in Russia have a yearly income of less than 12,000 USD — more than twice the global average (15%). And just 21% earn between 25,000 and 75,000 USD a year (vs. 37% globally). More than a quarter of respondents (27%) say their disposable household income is not enough to cover expenses (vs. 23% globally). A Canadian expat shares, “I do not like the income discrepancies.” Nonetheless, Russia receives its best result in the Cost of Living Index (25th): 49% of expats rate the cost of living positively, which is, however, still just one percentage point above the global average (48%).

The Impact of COVID-19 on Expat Life

Fewer than three in five survey respondents in Russia (58%) state that the pandemic has not had any impact on the duration of their stay abroad (vs. 63% globally). However, 20% have decided to stay in Russia and not to move back home in the near future (vs. 18% globally), and 11% were planning to move to another foreign country but had to change these plans due to COVID-19 (vs. 8% globally).

More than one out of five expats in Russia (22%) expect the pandemic to mostly affect their work or business in the long run (vs. 16% globally). And lastly, just over half the respondents (51%) are satisfied with the official communication regarding COVID-19 and related regulations in Russia, compared to about two-thirds globally (66%).

Further Reading