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Now ranked 77 in the world, Hong Kong ties with Taipei, while regional rival Singapore retains the top spot as the most liveable city for expats from East Asia.

A combination of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and reduced press freedom means Hong Kong is now the 77th most liveable location in the world for workers relocating from elsewhere in East Asia. Other Asian locations such as Taipei, Macau, and Seoul all fell down the rankings thanks to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

These are the findings from the latest Location Ratings survey published by ECA International.

Hong Kong has seen a significant drop in our latest liveability rankings partly as a result of the increasing censorship of local news and media, impacting on the ‘freedom of news and media’ aspect of the overall liveability score,” said Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International. “At the same time, many locations which were ranked below Hong Kong last year have relaxed many COVID-19 induced social distancing measures, causing them to move up our global rankings and overtake the city.”

As a percentage of the overall population, Hong Kong is experiencing the greatest outflow of expatriates. In the past month, a large number of both local nationals and expatriates have departed Hong Kong, owing to the impact of the latest wave of Covid-19 infections.

The annual survey looks at a host of factors to form an assessment of the overall quality of living in over 490 locations worldwide. These factors include climate; availability of health services; housing and utilities; natural phenomena; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions; and air quality. 

Singapore remains the most liveable location in the world for expatriates from East Asia, despite seeing the overall liveability score declining, fighting off competition from Wellington, New Zealand, and various Japanese cities.

Quane explained: "This was in spite of the liveability score worsening in Singapore due to a combination of very strict lockdown measures and increasing internet censorship. This meant that the gap between Singapore and the second and third-placed cities has shrunk since last year, but Singapore retains its spot at the top of the rankings as a result of outstanding scores in other areas such as international schooling, infrastructure, and housing.” 


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Macau, which remains one of the most sealed-off locations in the world, dropped 30 places in the last 12 months. Meanwhile, Taipei saw the biggest fall in the rankings, dropping 31 places from last year to tie with Hong Kong as the 77th most liveable location.

"Similarly, many locations in India, which placed widespread restrictions on movement to combat the spread of COVID-19, fell in our rankings, as did many locations in China which have witnessed a continued disconnection from the world as they have suspended direct air connections with international cities,” Quane added.

"Taipei is normally a fixture in the top 50 most liveable global locations but saw a notable drop this year,” said Quane. “Part of this fall was due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 restrictions reducing recreational activities for residents. At the same time, the city is witnessing a growing housing crisis with a shortage of accommodation for Taipei’s growing expatriate population. The silver lining for expatriate workers though is that this is not expected to be a long-term trend, and we will hopefully see an improved score as soon as pandemic-related restrictions eventually begin to ease,” explained Quane.

The downward trend for Asian locations also included Mainland Chinese cities which all fell in the liveability rankings. The highest placed Chinese city, Shanghai, now sits in 117th place while Zhengzhou saw the biggest fall and dropped 14 places to 194th most liveable city.

Top 20 most liveable locations for East Asian overseas workers

Location  2021-2022 ranking    2020-2021 ranking 
Singapore  1
Wellington, New Zealand
Osaka, Japan 3
Tokyo, Japan 3 3
Copenhagen, Denmark 
 Nagoya, Japan 
Bern, Switzerland 14 
Yokohama, Japan 8 6
Eindhoven, Netherlands 8 17
Stavanger, Norway 10 10
Brisbane, Australia 10 12
Gothenburg, Sweden 10 12
Adelaide, Australia 10 14
Utrecht, Netherlands 10 14
Sydney, Australia 10 21
Amsterdam, Netherlands 10 21
The Hague, Netherlands 10 21
Geneva, Switzerland 10 27
Dublin, Irish Republic 10 37
Aarhus, Denmark 20 10

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Photo/ECA International

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