Expats in China rate quality of life as low but say it’s good for their careers

·3-min read

A new survey found that foreigners in China were mixed about living in the mainland during the Covid-19 pandemic, reporting a lower quality of life but more satisfaction with career opportunities and the state of the economy.

InterNations, a networking site for expatriates around the world, said in its annual report released on Tuesday that Taiwan was deemed the best destination for people living abroad out of 59 places, ahead of mainland China at 22nd and Hong Kong towards the bottom of the list at 46th.

Rankings were based on a survey of 12,240 people representing 174 different nationalities.

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While mainland China’s overall ranking in 2021 had increased from previous years – up from the 50th best place for expats out of 64 destinations in 2019 – expats said the country’s quality of life remained low, including because of restricted access to online services and the quality of the environment.

Mainland China landed in the bottom three for the digital life index, and 46 per cent of respondents were unhappy with air quality – more than double the global average in the survey.

But the bright spot was that foreigners in mainland China said they had a satisfying working life, with 87 per cent happy with the state of the local economy and 68 per cent satisfied with their job security. China’s was the only major economy to expand last year despite the pandemic, with its annual growth reaching 2.3 per cent.

A foreigner gets a Covid-19 test in Taoyuan, Taiwan. Some 96 per cent of survey respondents in Taiwan were positive about the quality of health care. Photo: NurPhoto via Getty Images
A foreigner gets a Covid-19 test in Taoyuan, Taiwan. Some 96 per cent of survey respondents in Taiwan were positive about the quality of health care. Photo: NurPhoto via Getty Images

In Taiwan, which has consistently topped the survey in recent years as one of the best places for expats, foreigners gave high marks for the affordability and quality of local health care as well as the friendliness of the local population. More than 80 per cent of expats in Taiwan said they were generally happy with their lives, 96 per cent rated the quality of health care positively and 83 per cent said they were satisfied with job security.

Taiwan has been lauded for having one of the world’s best responses to the coronavirus pandemic, although it is experiencing a spike in cases after months of no local infections. On Tuesday, the island recorded 240 new locally transmitted cases and two deaths.

In Hong Kong, mounting political tensions in the wake of the 2019 anti-extradition protests and the enactment of a sweeping national security law last June have taken their toll, with foreigners ranking the city as below average on quality of life and in the bottom three for safety and security. Seventy per cent of expats rated the city’s political stability negatively – more than four times the global average, and a sharp contrast to the 95 per cent rating Singapore’s political stability positively.

Foreigners living in Hong Kong also rated the city’s cost of living as the worst of the 59 destinations, with 78 per cent expressing dissatisfaction with rising costs. Hong Kong has consistently been found to be one of the world’s most expensive cities, particularly because of its exceptionally high housing costs, even as rents have fallen slightly during the pandemic and ongoing political uncertainties.

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