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Hong Kong air pollution

Air pollution keeps Hong Kong in 28th place in expat liveability ranking, while Singapore takes top spot

Mainland cities also fare poorly in survey measuring quality of life for Asian expatriates due to rise in internet censorship and drop in air quality

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 3:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2018, 8:12am

Hong Kong came in 28th in a global ranking of the most liveable cities for Asian expatriates – retaining roughly the same spot for three straight years – due to its failure to address poor air quality and the greater risk of infectious diseases spreading across its densely-packed population.

Singapore retained the top spot for the 16th year running, with Australian and Japanese cities close behind, according to the survey of over 470 locations by human resources consultancy ECA International.

No mainland Chinese city was ranked above 100 in the latest findings released on Tuesday. Shanghai and Beijing were placed at 114th and 134th.

To produce the annual survey, researchers measure the quality of life for expatriates in locations around the world, assessing factors such as climate, health care, housing, infrastructure, political tension and air quality.

But the cost of living was not a factor, as it was deemed as an issue that could be solved by adjusting expatriate pay packages.

Lee Quane, ECA International’s Regional Director of Asia said the results were based on objective indicators only, but not expats’ opinion.

He added the results would be used by clients to decide whether, or by how much, financial incentives should be provided when recruiting expatriates, or relocating them to another city.

Hong Kong was ranked 29th last year and 28th in 2016. Five years ago, it was in 11th place.

Quane urged the government to step up efforts to improve air quality, including tackling regional pollution such as reducing emissions from Pearl River Delta factories.

“But we understand there are things one cannot do much about. The density of the population and the subtropical climate means Hong Kong is more prone to infectious disease outbreaks, such as SARS or dengue fever,” he noted.

Why are Hong Kong’s expats still down in the dumps about living in the city?

While Hong Kong’s skyrocketing housing prices did not affect its ranking, the diminishing size of flats may cause some expats to have second thoughts about working in the city.

“For example, micro-flats of around 200 sq ft in Hong Kong may lose out to four-bedroom homes in suburban Singapore,” Quane said.

Mainland cities did not fare well in the ranking because of severe air pollution, and greater internet censorship in recent months, which further restricted freedom of information, Quane said.