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NatWest IPB Quality of Life Report

Everybody needs good neighbours!

British expats still living the dream down under but the Eastern promise tempts

  • Australia is top for British expats
  • 87% of British expats in Australia intend to remain there for the long haul
  • China jumped six places from 11th to fifth position
  • UAE remains one to watch
  • Europe reaches bottom of the Index for the first time in seven years
  • A third of British expats in France would move back to the UK

Life down under is judged to have the ingredients for a happier, healthier and wealthier life, with nine in ten (89%) British expats in Australia reporting an improved quality of life according to the seventh annual NatWest International Personal Banking (IPB) Quality of Life Index.

The ‘Quality of Life’ study was carried out for NatWest International Personal Banking by the Centre for Future Studies between May and June 2014 among 1804 British expats. The study reveals for over eight in ten (82%) British expats in Australia the number one reason for them being there is the better environment and quality of life for their children, with a further 73 per cent also having seen their health improve. Over two thirds (68%) say they are wealthier, reporting an increase in disposable income since moving to Australia and a further 88 per cent rate the state of the economy highly.

For over eight in ten (84%) Brits, the Aussie sunshine is one of the top five reasons for living there, so much so that 87 per cent will remain in Australia indefinitely, with 26 per cent of the expats living in the country, already retired.

Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking comments:

Our seven year Quality of Life Index has shown Australia to be consistently popular with British expats [see table below] and who can blame the many Brits who have decided to make their home in this sunny country which has fared reasonably well during the financial crisis. They believe Australia offers a better quality of life for them and their children, a healthier lifestyle, plus they get a suntan to top it off!

Seven year shift – the rise of the East and decline of the West

The global Quality of Life Index, carried out by Centre for Future Studies, examines British expatriate opinions and attitudes on lifestyle, employment and financial status. It tracks a seven year shift in country rankings since 2008. Most notably 2014 reveals the rise of the Far East with China, Singapore and Hong Kong soaring up the league table. China has seen highest increase in scoring witnessed in the Index. The country’s mean score in 2013 was 58.5; in 2014 it scored 74.8; an increase of 27 per cent.

Country rankings over seven years:

Country Ranking 2014 Ranking 2013 Ranking 2012 Ranking 2011 Ranking 2010 Ranking 2009 Ranking 2008
Australia 1 1 2 3 1 3 n/a
Canada 2 2 1 2 2 1 1
UAE 3 3 9 10 6 10 6
Singapore 4 7 10 10 9 11 9
China 5 11 12 12 11 10 n/a
New Zealand 6 5 3 2 3 1 2
South Africa 7 4 4 5 8 8 n/a
Hong Kong 8 12 11 11 12 12 n/a
USA 9 6 5 8 5 9 n/a
France 10 8 7 4 4 4 n/a
Spain 11 9 8 7 7 7 7
Portugal 12 10 9 6 6 5 3

Source: Centre for Future Studies

Of those surveyed, seven in ten (71%) British expats moved to China for better job prospects with 87 per cent stating they earn more than they did in the UK. According to the Quality of Life Index, half of British expats in China (49%) believe their work-life balance has improved. They cite a friendly local culture, good food, and good fitness opportunities as key factors for remaining in the country. For British expats the quality of public transport in China with its bullet trains, city subway systems and vast bus networks is a draw.

Singapore ranks highly among British expats for raising children, with excellent childcare and education, even if it is expensive. Singapore has a strong work ethic and to be successful in Singapore, expats must be career-driven, with the country scoring low for work-life balance and 53 per cent of expats saying they worry about job security.

In 2013, the number of work visas issued in Hong Kong to UK citizens jumped 45 per cent to 3,907. This number marked a record high. British expats in Hong Kong are attracted by low taxes (74%), efficient public transport (58%) and the widespread use of English (92%). The downsides, however, are a shortage of international schools (34%), overcrowding (73%) and air pollution (94%).

Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking comments:

Our Quality of Life 2014 Index has revealed some interesting shifts in quality of life for British expats. With the heyday of Europe seemingly forgotten, the Far East has tempted many expats to dip their toes into a different life, one they appear to be reaping the benefits of. Better career prospects and higher wages are enjoyed by many in China, Singapore and Hong Kong, which has lifted these countries up the league table.

The Quality of Life Index reveals the UAE is in third position for the second year running. The British expats there are typically young; 25 -35 years’ old. The country provides a good working environment for 84 per cent, with a further 92 per cent reporting a high disposable income and excellent career prospects (82%). Despite career benefits however, expats there have found it difficult making friends and integrating into the community.

Austerity measures and fears over job security are prompting 63 per cent of British expats in Europe to consider returning to the UK. A third (31%) of British expats in France, stated that they would move back to the UK permanently.

The future for expats

The study reveals the demand for British professional skills in the tiger economies will undoubtedly continue to grow. This has already led to a 34 per cent increase in the number of expats working in China, Singapore and UAE, while those working in the US have decreased 17%.

Over the past six years South Africa has seen their number of expats soar, up 19% over the period. There are an estimated 239,000 British expats in South Africa, higher than the number resident in France and New Zealand. In contrast, there has been a 30 per cent decrease in the number moving to Western European countries, particularly Spain, Portugal and France and this trend is likely to continue.

Data according to Centre of Future Studies.

NatWest IPB Quality of Life Report

Case Studies Available on Request

The ‘Quality of Life’ study was carried out for NatWest International Personal Banking by the Centre for Future Studies between May and June 2014 among 1804 British expats.

The ‘Quality of Life’ study rated expats’ lives abroad based on assessments of lifestyle indicators such as availability of consumer goods, entertainment, food, law enforcement, public transport, sanitation, housing, public services, leisure and culture, schools and education, financial confidence, healthcare provision, retirement facilities, weather, financial factors and the natural environment.

Respondents to the 2014 Index were emailed invitations to participate and respondents were also recruited through notices on expat websites. Based on the responses obtained, the 2014 Quality of Life Index’ was prepared. The survey was conducted at, the online research arm of the Centre for Future Studies which identifies and measures attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and opinions among consumers.

A separate survey was undertaken among British expats living in retirement to explore their perceived quality of life; their lifestyles; their health and financial well being; and expectations for the future.

Unless referenced all statistics are from the survey.

NatWest IPB Quality of Life Report

Further information

For further information please contact:

Lisa Grando, Lansons, 0207 294 3669 or
Lewis Wilks, Lansons, 0207 566 9702 or

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