• Thu
  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 2:18pm
NewsChina Insider

China beats Hong Kong and Singapore to be ranked best destination for expats

HSBC survey reveals Chinese mainland was No 1 destination of choice for expats in 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 11:53am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 7:39am


  • Yes: 17%
  • No: 83%
5 Nov 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 602

The Chinese mainland has overtaken Hong Kong, Singapore and the rest of the world as the destination of choice for expats, according to a new survey by HSBC.

The mainland rose from 7th spot in the bank’s similar survey on purely economic conditions for expats last year to 1st in this year's overall ranking. In terms of economic conditions, the mainland ranked second globally after Switzerland this year.

Hong Kong fell from 4th to 10th place overall and came 19th in terms of economic conditions. Singapore, which topped last year’s ranking, came third overall after the mainland and Germany.

The survey of about 7,000 expats in 37 countries showed that Asia has widened its appeal for expatriates, offering higher average salaries than anywhere else. Expats in Asia made US$74,000 (HK$574,000) on average last year, compared to $64,000 elsewhere, the bank said.

See the full report here

The decision by expats to move to China is still mainly driven by economic factors, the survey showed. Seven in ten expats moved to the mainland because of better job opportunities, whereas only four in ten emigrated to Hong Kong to move up the career ladder.

In terms of quality of life, the mainland beat the SAR this year in almost every category in the survey, including disposable income, diet, commute, accommodation and the weather. While the mainland ranked second after Brazil in terms of ease of integration, Hong Kong stood at a low 28th rank globally.

However, Hong Kong still beat the mainland on core matters of childcare, healthcare, entertainment and work culture.

Almost half, 49 per cent, of the expats surveyed living in the mainland said they enjoyed a better work-life balance than in their home country. Despite frequent reports about hazardous air pollution, 45 per cent of expats said life in the PRC has made them more active in sports.

The large majority of expats in the mainland, 86 per cent, made an effort to learn the local language in China, in contrast to 60 per cent of those expats living elsewhere, according to the survey.

Hong Kong still stood out as an attractive destination for families, ranking eleventh globally. Almost six in ten said childcare in the SAR was better than in their home countries, and slightly more than five in ten said education was better in Hong Kong. Germany, Singapore and France were ahead of the SAR in terms of the best places to raise a family.

One reason for the increased appeal of the mainland over Hong Kong could be the comparatively inexpensive cost of living. According to a study earlier this year by the Economist Intelligence Unit, life in Hong Kong was more expensive than in all major Chinese cities.

However, a study of compensation packages for expats by the human resources firm ECA International later in the year found that Hong Kong was ranked as cheaper to live in than Beijing and Shanghai.

An HSBC spokesperson dismissed criticism over the sample sizes, saying those in China and Hong Kong considerably exceeded their minimum sample of thirty. Because of changes in methology, the company refrained from making year-on-year comparisons, she said.

Commenting on a wider trend, the spokesperson said expat wealth has been gradually heading east over the last six years.

"This year, Asia not only emerged as the expat social hub with 35 per cent agreeing that they enjoy a more active social life since relocating, compared with the global average of 26 per cent - the highest out of any region, Asia is also home to among the highest paid expats in the world," she wrote in an emailed statement. 

Country Score
China 0.48
Germany 0.48
Singapore 0.48
Cayman Islands 0.47
Australia 0.45
Canada 0.44
Russia 0.43
Belgium 0.42
United Arab Emirates 0.42
Hong Kong 0.42
Turkey 0.41
United States 0.41
Qatar 0.40
New Zealand 0.40
South Africa 0.39
Mexico 0.39
France 0.38
Netherlands 0.37
Saudi Arabia 0.37
Spain 0.36
Kuwait 0.35
United Kingdom 0.33
Italy 0.31
Ireland 0.27



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This article is now closed to comments

I used to be an expat in HK and now, I'm in Beijing. Expat packages are bigger here but life is much more convenient in HK. I don't have to go to "special" hospital to get good medical help, I can get away with English (try to speak English to taxi driver in Beijing, you'll see what I mean), public transport system is much better and reliable (subway that close at 10pm?), better food quality (HK cha caan teng? no problem. Beijing-style cha caan teng? Oh boy...). And children education, news, censorships, road condition etc etc.
Winter, God knows how much I hate Beijing's winter. I don't particularly like HK long, hot, humid summer but at least I know I can retreat to aircon-ed area. And, don't get started with the dust...
I wonder who's butt HSBC is trying to stick it's nose up.
How about medical facilities and hospitalization? How about hong bao to doctors and nurses?? Drug makers constantly and habitually bribe doctors in order to get their inferior drugs to patients, most of the time in an overdozed manner? How about pollution? Kids' education? I have reason to believe that the organizer for the survey has been bribed by the Chinese authorities!!!
These surveys are always to be taken with a pinch of salt. The ones about 'best places to live' always have godawful tedious places like Toronto or Zurich at the top.
This is no different. Bits I find hard to believe include better food and commutes on the Mainland.
The main problem in HK, for local and expat alike, is the cost of housing. It is also the problem least likely to be solved.
"In terms of quality of life, the mainland beat the SAR this year in almost every category in the survey, including disposable income, diet, commute, accommodation and the weather."
Which "Mainland" are they talking about? If "mainland" means Continental Europe, ok, that's hard for Hong Kong to beat. Or did I miss something here? Hong Kong might be expensive, loud, small, hectic and whatsoever, but inside Asia it is still one of the best spots to live when it comes to Quality in all aspects of life.
Compared with Australia, food and transport are much cheaper in HK. The one thing that is expensive here is housing.
Hilarious comments by so many people. Comparing HK with China is ignorant and unreasonable. If China was so tiny as HK it would be just as good as HK or may be better. China is vast, prosperity has not reached to all corners . However coastal cities where most of the expats live are just as good as those in the west or even HK. We should be more reasonable before making harsh or sometimes non-sensical comments about China. Three decades of Industrialization after turmoil has brought China so far , the country already deserves a bow. Keep moving ahead China , you will top all the lists in the next two decades.
can you believe shylock bankers are still allowed to be signatories to verify passport photos ?
what an utterly dumb stupid report
anyone who has been to China frequently or lives (cough, cough, spit, smog, corruption) there knows the real truth
'Seven in ten expats moved to the mainland because of better job opportunities'
actually no-one would hire them here or in Macau so they took the third choice rather than stay in Greece or Spain
I like HSBC. I have always had an account with them. I find the staff most polite and go out of their way to be helpful.




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