26 October 2016
The pleasures of Lan Kwai Fong don't make up for a lot of pet peeves expats have about Hong Kong. Photo: HK Tourism Board
The pleasures of Lan Kwai Fong don't make up for a lot of pet peeves expats have about Hong Kong. Photo: HK Tourism Board

Expats in Hong Kong make loads of cash and aren’t happy about it

With all the expats partying down in Lan Kwai Fong (and Wan Chai for the degenerates), you’d think they’d be a happy bunch.

But although many make more than US$250,000 a year, expats in Hong Kong have plenty to grumble about, a new global survey finds.

Atrocious housing prices, long work hours and difficulty finding a decent school for their kids are among the biggest gripes, InterNations, publisher of the Expat Insider 2015 survey, said.

Out of 64 destinations on the cost of living index, Hong Kong ranked among the least easy on the expat wallet — at number 58, worse than Britain but ahead of Switzerland.

Fortune and good luck be damned, 88 percent of expats had nothing good to say about Hong Kong housing costs and availability.

In fact, 54 percent of survey respondents rated the cost of housing in Hong Kong “very bad”, and not a single person could muster up a “very good”.

At least it’s an improvement over last year: in the Expat Insider 2014 survey, Hong Kong had the highest percentage of expats giving the worst possible rating for affordable housing.

InterNations polls more than 14,000 people from 195 countries and overseas territories for its annual expat report.

A separate survey by human resources consultancy ECA International earlier this year pegged Hong Kong as the fourth-most expensive city in the Asia-Pacific for expatriates, behind Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul.

Expats aren’t too thrilled about the work-life balance in Hong Kong either, with respondents ranking the “Pearl of the Orient” down in the cellar with places like Turkey, Russia and Kazakhstan.

It’s probably the long hours: expats in Hong Kong have among the top 10 longest work weeks in the world at 47.6 hours per week.

By comparison, expats in Norway log 40.4 hours, the shortest average full-time work week reported.

When it comes to education for expat kids, parents put Hong Kong at the bottom of the class.

Although 83 percent of parents are satisfied with the quality of education here, when it came to rating the availability of education, Hong Kong only managed to pull in 17 percent in positive ratings, none of which were completely positive.

InterNations said the shortage of openings at international schools in Hong Kong, where 78 percent of expat parents send their kids, is no secret.

Expats in Hong Kong were also the least satisfied when it comes to the cost of education, with 83 percent posting a negative response.

Complaints notwithstanding, Hong Kong was ranked the 26th top destination for expats in the general survey population — pretty good in a field of 195 countries, but far below last year’s No. 10 ranking.

For inquiring minds, Ecuador scored first-place honors for the second year in a row.

Evidently, the country was a clear favorite for low living expenses and affordable healthcare, for feeling welcome, making friends and socializing.

Expats picked the United States as the ninth-best destination, and China ranked 38th.

Surprisingly, women absolutely adore Hong Kong.

The city ranks much higher for women than men, coming in at 12th for the former and 39th for the latter, with the biggest difference in the working abroad index (first vs. 35th place for the job and career subcategory).

Hong Kong was ranked the 35th top destination for expat families.

For the nosy, Hong Kong came in at the top end of the scale for expats making more than US$250,000 annually, just behind Nigeria and ahead of Singapore.

A separate survey by HSBC said more than 35 percent of Hong Kong’s expats make more than US$200,000 per year.

If you buy me a beer, I won’t tell everybody who you are.*

* While Expat Insider 2015 annoyingly didn’t ask what expats thought of beer prices where they live, Hong Kong is the second-most expensive place to enjoy a brew, according to the recently released 2015 Beer Price Index, which combined data from 75 cities around the world, using the cost of the most popular local beer and top five most commonly imported ones.

– Contact us at [email protected]


A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

EJI Weekly Newsletter