So, what happened to integration?

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Are locals and foreigners growing further apart in Singapore? An annual global survey of expats shows Singapore has slid down the rankings in social integration.

In the 2013 HSBC Expat Explorer survey released yesterday, Singapore has slipped from fourth to sixth in the overall experience of expatriates and fourth to seventh in the quality of life. But there has been a big drop in integration, down from 18th to 26th among the 37 countries surveyed.

This year’s report does not go into details, but last year’s report said:

“Expats living in Asia generally report finding it difficult to integrate into the local community. The number of expats who agreed strongly that they had integrated well in the local community in Asian countries including Malaysia (25%) Singapore (19%), Thailand (14%), and Hong Kong (11%) were much lower in comparison to many English-speaking countries such as Canada (44%), Australia (43%) and the UK (41%). The trend is highlighted when looking at the social activity of expats in these countries, with many expats in Hong Kong (50%), Thailand (48%) and Singapore (41%) in strong agreement that they tend to socialise with other expats rather than locals.“

This year’s report shows Singapore ranks sixth when it comes to making friends but 18th in making local friends and 21st in feeling welcome at work.

“Job market security is still a major concern for expats in Singapore, with 53% (compared to the global average of 39%) citing it as one of the top three threats to their financial wellbeing and confidence,” says the report.

The expats seem just as stressed as the locals. The survey shows Singapore ranks 32nd in work-life balance.

The expats are also feeling the pinch of the rising cost of living. The report says: “As well as the high cost of groceries and going out (65% and 64% said they are spending more respectively), Singapore emerges as one of the most expensive countries for public transport, with 63% of expats pointing out the higher costs.”

It adds: “The education and childcare system is also expensive (79% and 83% saw an increase in cost respectively) but it seems that expats are willing to pay the fees, because the higher costs are justified by the quality of service. Nearly eight in ten (78%) say that the quality of education is better in Singapore and 72% say the same for childcare.”

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Singapore attractions

In fact, Singapore ranks second only to Germany as the best place to bring up a child.

And Singapore has other attractions. It ranks fifth in ease of setting up a new home.

More than half the respondents (54%) this year said they came to Singapore mainly because of better career prospects.

Last year’s report noted: “Singapore scores well as a place to live among expats, with 76% having found that their quality of life had improved upon relocation. And 74% witnessed an improvement in the financial status of their household. “

Singapore continues to attract skilled young professionals, says this year’s report, with 62% in the 18-34 age group.

Of the 228 expats surveyed in Singapore, 20% work in IT. While 29% came from Malaysia and 23% from India, 8% each came from Indonesia and the Philippines and 7% from China.

 

Top 10 Countries for Expatriates

CountrySetting UpIntegrationQuality of lifeOverall expat experience
Thailand3331
Bahrain62322
China15423
Cayman Islands12434
Australia21485
Singapore52676
India281257
Taiwan24868
Spain87169
Brazil2011710

 

In Asia, the highest proportion of expats earning more than $250,000 are located in Indonesia (22%), Japan (13%) and China (10%) compared with a global average of just 3%. Comparatively, the lowest-paid expats live in Europe, where average salaries are $53,000 annually.