Thursday 19 April 2012

Singapore remains top city for Asian expats

By Anita Gabriel, The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2012

SINGAPORE remains the most liveable city among Asian expatriates, according to a new study, but cracks are appearing.

The excellent infrastructure and low crime rate have long been two of the most compelling reasons cited by expats for liking Singapore.

However, there are strains from the rising population and increased tourist numbers being lured by the integrated resorts, said Mr Lee Quane, Asia regional director of expatriate location advisers ECA International, which conducted the annual study.

He told The Straits Times that these issues and problems like the recent flash floods do not threaten Singapore's position at the top of the league table, one it has held for the past 13 years.

'They are not overwhelmingly negative nor are they detrimental enough to impair Singapore's ranking,' he said.

'In the next few surveys, we will focus on these things to see if it's a general trend or a one-off thing related to growing pains.'

One expat-turned-citizen, who works at a financial institution and declined to be named, told The Straits Times that things still look pretty good: 'It is certainly still the most desirable city to live in, not just in Asia, but in the Asia-Pacific.

'Hygiene is top-class, everything functions and it's very safe. It was a South-east Asian city when I first came here years ago. Now, it's a global city.'

These rankings have a definite impact when firms send staff overseas, noted Hong Kong-based Mr Quane.

'When a location has good air quality, excellent infrastructure and health-care facilities, low crime and health risks - all the attributes Singapore offers - companies are likely to provide just a low allowance or none at all.

'While Hong Kong is a very liveable city in many respects, the bad air quality could impact on the decision of an employee to relocate there. In this respect, Singapore has a clear lead over Hong Kong.'

Hong Kong is in 11th place, up from 14th last year. Its rise in the rankings is more about Tokyo and Yokohama's fall, Mr Quane noted.

Both Japanese cities were in the top 10 last year but have fallen to joint 17th due to last year's earthquake and tsunami.

After Singapore, Australian cities Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide are cited as the most liveable locations for Asian expats.

But while Singapore ranks at the top for Asians - it is one of two Asian cities apart from Kobe, Japan in the top 10 global locations - it ranks 66th for Western European expats.

This is because the impact of some factors used in the assessment, such as distance from home and cultural, language and climate differences, varies according to where the expatriates come from.

'We take into account the home and destination country when analysing quality of living,' said Mr Quane.

Scores have generally remained steady across most Chinese locations.

Australia dominates the global top 10 with Perth, Canberra and Melbourne in the top 10 alongside Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide at the top of the ranking after Singapore.

New Zealand's Christchurch dropped from 30th last year to 53rd as its housing and infrastructure were severely affected by last year's earthquake.

Baghdad and Kabul hold the unenviable spot as the least liveable locations. Third from bottom is Haiti's Port au Prince.

The ECA International study gleaned input from about 2,000 expatriates.

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