Is Singapore or Taiwan a better place to live than Hong Kong?

May 12, 2015 12:49
Singapore (right photo) and Taiwan have advantages and disadvantages over Hong Kong which locals thinking of emigrating should consider. Photos: Internet

In this day and age, with low inflation-adjusted income growth outside of high earners and potential social unrest, many Hongkongers like to tease themselves with the thought of emigrating.

Is the grass really greener on the other side?

To start with, there's the language situation. Singapore's multicultural mix naturally presents an obstacle, unless one's goal is to learn or raise children native to English and simplified Chinese.

Taiwan, of course, presents the inverse situation. More generally, Hong Kong and Singapore both have a good educational environment and outcompete Taiwan, although Singapore consistently edges out Hong Kong on the margins.

In terms of health, the air quality in Taiwan and Singapore are both generally much better than that of Hong Kong.

Yet, there are disappointing exceptions in both cases. Don't expect better from Taipei or other industrial and traffic centers on the western coast, but if you're lucky enough to be situated in the center, east or even in a small city on the western coast, you'll probably be able to enjoy those clear blue skies again.

While Singapore's air quality isn't as good as the less urbanized areas of eastern Taiwan, it's still much better than Hong Kong, yet this only holds true when months-long man-made fires aren't raging in the jungles of Indonesia.

Salaries are generally significantly higher for skilled workers in Singapore (with a per capita annual income of about US$55,000 and a gini coefficient of 0.463), and lower in Taiwan (US$21,000 per capita, and a gini coefficient of 0.342), compared to Hong Kong (US$38,000 per capita, and a gini coefficient of 0.537).

Gini coefficient is a number used to quantify income equality in a country or region wherein 0 means absolute economic equality and 1 means a single person owns everything in the entire society.[See here]

The cost of living in Hong Kong and Singapore are comparable, data is inconclusive, yet it is probably slightly higher in Singapore.

In comparison, the cost of living in Taiwan is roughly half that of Hong Kong. However, for prospective long-term immigrants, Singapore offers a more efficient welfare scheme, in particular in terms of housing, whereas Taiwan's is more comprehensive.

Yet, what to do with all the money when it's finally made?

Shopping is great in Singapore and not as good in Taiwan, but if you want to leave Hong Kong you're probably looking for more outdoorsy activities.

Singapore is good for fun in the water and ecotourism in surrounding Malaysia and Indonesia, if you can stand the heat, but Taiwan is the true gem in this category... it is a well-known haven for everything from bicycling and trekking to kayaking, paragliding and surfing.

Still, Hong Kong can be a surprising beauty with many hidden features, especially on its brighter days. From dirt bike riding to paragliding, parachuting and diving, to rock climbing both indoors and outs... perhaps the trick is not to look at the smog and rent a bike at the station. 

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A Hong Kong-based writer from Norway