Singapore remains No. 1 liveable city in the world for Asian expats for 10th year in a row

The city state of Singapore has taken the No. 1 spot in the latest rankings for “Top 20 most liveable locations globally for East Asian overseas workers”. The rankings are compiled annually by ECA International, which offers global mobility solutions to businesses.

Singapore Gardens by the Bay meditation spot
Peaceful and safe: A spot near Singapore Gardens by the Bay. Photo courtesy: Instagram/stb_sg

Releasing its 2023 Location Ratings Report in mid-January 2024, ECA International said in a media release: “Singapore remains the most liveable city for Asian expatriates, with low crime rates among the attractions.”

Elaborating on this, Mark Harrison, General Manager for Asia at ECA, said: “With excellent infrastructure and facilities, low crime rates and little exposure to socio-political tensions, Singapore remains a very attractive location for expatriates. However, other locations in the region have improved, and [as a result] the gap between Singapore and other locations has fallen.”

Singapore park
A great quality of life: Clean, green spaces abound in Singapore. Photo courtesy: Instagram/stb_sg

Some of the other salient features of the 2023 rankings, according to ECA International, are:

  • Removal of pandemic restrictions sees liveability of Hong Kong and mainland China improve over past 12 months.
  • Steady improvements over the past decade also see mainland Chinese cities become more liveable compared to 10 years ago.
  • Hong Kong’s overall ranking falls in the past five years, but it remains in the Top 10 most liveable Asian cities.
  • Parts of South-East Asia rise up the rankings, thanks to steady improvements over the past decade.

Explaining how the cities are ranked, the media release said: “ECA’s Location Ratings objectively evaluate cities around the world to form an assessment of the overall quality of living for expats in over 500 locations across the globe.

“The ranking is based on a variety of liveability factors, including availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and recreational and leisure facilities; infrastructure; climate; personal safety; socio-political tensions; and air quality. The impact of some of the factors assessed will vary according to the home location of the assignee.”

South-East Asian cities climb up

Harrison said: “We have seen lots of small but significant improvements in areas such as transport infrastructure, health services, and recreational facilities in several locations throughout South-East Asia, leading to these locations becoming more attractive.”

This pattern of incremental improvement has seen the likes of Jakarta (213th to 196th), Phnom Penh (200th to 184th) and Hanoi (160th to 144th) climb the rankings.

Most liveable cities ranking

Mainland China and Hong Kong

Mainland Chinese cities have climbed significantly in the rankings in the past 10 years, despite losing some of their momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some aspects of life continue to be challenging for expatriates, such as high levels of pollution, censorship, and suboptimal healthcare facilities.

However, improvements in areas such as transport infrastructure and international schooling provision are the reason cities like Shenzhen (137th this year compared to 152nd a decade ago), Xi’an (163rd this year compared to 176th), and Wuhan (up from 160th to 145th) have improved in the rankings.

Hong Kong has improved its liveability since 2022 due to the removal of the final COVID-related restrictions. “Hong Kong and mainland China were among the last places globally to lift restrictions, meaning they were relatively more challenging locations to live in during the final stages of the pandemic,” said Harrison. “With those restrictions belatedly lifted, both Hong Kong and mainland Chinese locations have seen improvements over the last 12 months.”

The 2023 Location Ratings by ECA International represent the situation in November 2023, with all scoring accurate at the time of publication. The rankings are compared with those from 2013.