Expat survey: Spain near bottom for salaries, near top for quality of life

Singapore ranked first overall for economics, experience and family life in HSBC Expat Explorer study

Laura Delle Femmine
Singapore, the top-ranked expat destination.
Singapore, the top-ranked expat destination.

Higher salaries, better education and more work opportunities. That’s what expatriates say about Singapore, which has been chosen for the fourth year in a row as the best place to live, according to the 11th HSBC Expat Explorer survey. The average salary in Singapore is over €140,000 and tends to be 30% more what an expat believes they could earn in their home country.

Spain, in contrast, is ranked 14th overall on the list of 31 countries that were reviewed, dropping three spots since 2017. But it’s a mixed review. In the category on economic conditions, Spain is nearly last in 27th place, but the country jumps to second place when it comes to quality of life.

Eight in 10 expats say their quality of life is better in Spain than in their home country

The results are based on interviews with 22,000 professionals from 163 countries who have left their homes to work abroad. To get a better understanding of expat life, the survey looks at 27 variables in three categories: economy, experience and family life.

In the first category, which looks at salaries and work opportunities, Switzerland tops the chart, ahead of Germany and Singapore. The average salary of an expat in Switzerland is more than $200,000 (€173,000) a year – double the global average – and despite the elevated cost of living, only 9% of expats in the country say they are worried about money. According to the survey, 89% of expats have spent five years or more in the country.

The second category looks at quality of life and variables such as health services and the friendliness of the people. In this area, Spain is ranked second, behind New Zealand and ahead of Taiwan. Eight in 10 expats says their quality of life is better in Spain and six in 10 expats with children say health and wellbeing conditions are better here than in their home country.

But while more than half of expats with children say the move has brought them closer as a family, it is difficult to compete with Sweden’s legislation on parental leave, which gives parents 480 days from the birth of a child and up to 120 to care for them when they get sick.

Climate and quality of life

Quality of life and climate are the two most popular reasons why expats say they have moved to Spain. Most expats come from the United Kingdom and many are retired. Of all the expats surveyed, less than one-fifth had a full-time job and only 14% had children.

Spain performs poorly when it comes to economic conditions

But Spain performs poorly when it comes to economic conditions, ranking last in the areas of income and saving possibilities, and second-to-last in the areas of entrepreneurship, promotion opportunities and job security. Expats in Spain earn less than the collective average and only 13% see Spain as a destination with better salaries than their home country.

It’s a finding confirmed by Spanish expats who tend to be professionals looking to advance their careers and find greater job security. According to the survey, 70% of Spanish expats believe their adopted country offers better career opportunities and higher salaries than Spain.

Japan and the Philippines

For the second year in a row, New Zealand has placed second overall for its high quality of life, and Germany ranks third for its conciliatory work culture. Brazil has come in last for a second time due to the political situation and lack of confidence in the economic system.

Japan fell eight positions compared to last year and is now listed just above Brazil, scoring low for entrepreneurship and integration. The Philippines also suffered a big fall from last year’s results, slipping from 17th place to 28th.

Ireland meanwhile jumped 10 places to number 18, scoring high marks for the quality of family life and education. The United States rose three places from 23 to 20, and the United Kingdom, a popular destination for young professional expats, jumped five places to the 22nd spot.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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