Few anticipated that the UK would vote to leave the UK. Even fewer expected that President Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in November’s US presidential election.
So unsurprisingly, members of the internationalist class of workers who populate urban centers like New York City and London – and who have the most to lose from nationalist economic and immigration policies - now perceive the US and Britain as less friendly to foreigners, not to mention less politically stable, according to a survey of 13,000 expatriates of 166 nationalities that was cited by Bloomberg.
The respondents said that quality of life in both countries is declining by other measures, including the affordability of child care and health care. However, we don’t think one can easily blame that on the election.
The UK ranks 54, down 21 places from last year’s survey, after its June 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Before the referendum, 77 percent of expats had a favorable opinion of the nation’s political stability. That’s down to 47 percent this year. The survey was conducted in February and March, before the most recent British election. Just half of expats say the UK has a good attitude toward foreign residents, compared to 67 percent worldwide.
Expats in Britain have also soured on its economy. The weak pound and higher inflation put the UK 59th for personal finance. Almost two-thirds of its expats have an unfavorable opinion of its cost of living, with 69 percent unhappy with the affordability of housing. Three out of five expats also don’t appreciate the weather in the UK.
The US has seen a commensurate decline in public opinion. Just 36 percent of expats have a positive view of America’s political stability, down from 68 percent in last year’s survey. Overall, it ranks 43 of 65, down 17 places from last year.
Overall, the U.S. is ranked 43rd of 65 contenders, 17 places lower than last year. But its reputation was already falling before the election results came in. As recently as 2014’s survey, the US was No. 5. One bright spot is that 69 percent of expats have a favorable view of the American economy.
Some 72 percent of expats in the US say health care is unaffordable; the world’s largest economy ranks 50 by measures of health and well-being. Its transportation infrastructure was rated “very good” by just 15 percent of the expats, less than half of the global average. Meanwhile, the US ranks last for affordability of child care and 39 out of 45 countries ranked for education affordability.
Despite all the talk about President Donald Trump stoking resentment against immigrants, expats still view the US as a welcoming country. Though that perception is beginning to shift...
“Three years ago, 84 percent of expats rated the U.S. positively on “friendly attitude to foreign residents,” and just 5 percent negatively. By 2017, the negative ratings had tripled, and the positive ratings had dropped 16 points.”
Many smaller economies outranked larger developed countries. Ironically, the top-ranked country in 2017 was Bahrain. We wonder: Would Bahrain’s sizable population of Asian “foreign workers” feel the same?
“The top-ranked country in 2017 is Bahrain, given high marks by its expats as a place to work and raise a family and for making foreigners feel welcome. It vastly outranks Persian Gulf neighbors such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which ranked in the bottom 10 of the 65 countries in the survey.”
While the US and UK have both experienced a reputational hit, surprisingly it was Australia that saw the largest drop of any national present in the rankings, sliding from tenth most expat-friendly country to 34th. Meanwhile, Greece ranked dead last, despite its warm climate and beautiful beaches.
“Greece was at the very bottom of the list, weighed down by the country’s economic problems. Australia, which ranked in the top 10 last year, dropped more than any other country, to 34th place. Expats’ ratings of jobs, career prospects, work hours and work-life balance all dropped.”
In another twist, China ranked as one of the expats’ favorite places, despite the severe pollution and the quality and cost of health care and education. Two-thirds of respondents said they were happy with their careers, though the country ranked 55 out of 65 for overall quality of life. Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan, which topped last year's list, slipped to fourth place, while Singapore climbed into the top 10. Hong Kong languished at 39, up from 44 last year.
The survey was conducted by InterNations, a Munich-based network of 2.8 million expats. The survey includes interviews with executives, skilled workers, students and retirees who live outside the country where they grew up. There are about 50 million expats worldwide, according to market research by Finaccord, and the number is expected to hit 60 million over the next five years.