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Expats rank the best places to live in worldwide

August 2016

August 29, 2016 | 13:55 | Dubai

Taiwan, Malta and Ecuador top the list of the best places to live abroad in the third annual InterNations Expat Insider 2016 survey. With more than 14,000 respondents, it is one of the most extensive studies ever conducted to explore the general living situation of expatriates.

While Oman and Bahrain were awarded with above-average positions among the top 25 countries for expats, the UAE settled on a mediocre rank at 40th place. Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia ended up at the very bottom of the survey by international expat network InterNations. Earning a tax-free salary is one of the main reasons expats head to the Gulf region, but the poor quality of living and political instability seem to disappoint foreign residents.

Exhibit 1

Quality of Life Does Not Satisfy, Despite Good Healthcare in the Gulf Region The GCC states’ rankings in the Quality of Life Index are, for the most part, among the worst in the world: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait rank 55th, 63rd, and 65th out of 67 countries, with only the UAE and Oman standing out on place 23 and 32, respectively. Expats are generally dissatisfied with the leisure options available in the region: Only the UAE does better than the worldwide average, with 38% of expats expressing complete satisfaction with local leisure options. In comparison, only five% of respondents in Saudi Arabia say the same. Moreover, expats are not satisfied with the difficulty of getting around in the GCC countries. Many feel that public transportation is not up to global standards. Again, the UAE is the only GCC state that performed well in this subcategory: In total, 73% of the respondents rated the state of the transport infrastructure in the UAE as very good, which is ten percentage points above the global average. Another 81% are also very satisfied with the travel opportunities offered by the UAE. On the other hand, healthcare standards in the GCC region seem to be perceived as a potential benefit by expats settling there. In fact, the healthcare standards in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE received a slightly above-average rating from respondents, when it comes to considering healthcare as a positive factor of relocating to the Gulf region. Unsurprisingly, though, it was taxation — or the lack of income tax — that proves to be the biggest draw for expats evaluating an upcoming move to any of the GCC states featured in the survey.

Political Stability under Threat The lack of political stability in the Middle East is a major problem at the moment, and the Gulf States are also affected, according to the survey respondents. In fact, fewer expats in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia are satisfied with the political stability in their country of residence than the global average of 61%. However, Oman and the UAE perform a lot better than the worldwide average: 85% and 81% respectively, are generally happy with this factor. However, this instability does not lead to issues with personal safety, with the region having a fairly low number of crimes. Most of the expats living in the region agree with this: for example, 63% feel very safe in the UAE, compared to a global average of 38%, and Oman even ranks 11th in the world in the Safety subcategory. Only Kuwait (27%) and Saudi Arabia (28%) perform worse than average in this regard.

The Best and Worst GCC Destinations For the third consecutive year, Kuwait has been ranked the least popular expat destination in the world. The searing hot climate is a significant discomfort: One-third of the respondents felt that the climate would pose a potential disadvantage when relocating to Kuwait. That is indeed 13 percentage points more than the global average. The country also places last in the Ease of Settling In Index. Factors such as the unfriendliness of the local population towards foreign residents, as well as the difficulty in making friends, receive poor ratings from expats in Kuwait.

On the other hand, Bahrain and Oman are featured in the global top 15 in the Ease of Settling in Index. In fact, 37% of the respondents in Bahrain and 41% of the respondents in Oman rated the friendly attitude towards foreign residents as very good, whereas the global average stands at 24%. Furthermore, 21% of expats in Oman and Bahrain alike say that making local friends is very easy, compared to a worldwide average of 12%. However, all other Gulf States have below average ratings for this factor, and it seems that language issues might also be contributing to the low rankings in the Ease of Settling In Index.

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