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Expats wealthiest in Southeast Asia: HSBC's annual survey

From News Oct 11 2012 BY: Helen Burggraf , Contributing Editor , International Adviser

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Expats living in Southeast Asia tend to earn the most, with those in Singapore the wealthiest of the lot, according to HSBC’s fifth annual survey of expatriate wealth, lifestyles and attitudes.

The survey, described by HSBC as the largest of its kind as measured by the number of participants, shows that Singapore this year tops its so-called Expat Explorer Economics league table, which ranks countries based on a number of factors such as earning levels, disposable income and ability to accumulate luxuries.

Singapore, the HSBC data shows, is home to the largest proportion of wealthy expats of any country, with more than half, or 54%, of Singapore-based expats who took part in the survey reporting that they earn more than $200,000 per year, compared to a global survey average of only 7%.

Four other Southeast Asian countries also place in the league table’s top ten of financially-accommodating jurisdictions, including Thailand (in third place), Hong Kong (fourth), China (seventh) and Vietnam (tenth), the HSBC data shows.

Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat, said that although Southeast Asia has long been a popular destination among those in other parts of the world keen to relocate in search of a better quality of life, most recently there had also been an observable, “steady increase in the levels of expat wealth heading to the region”.

“These two factors combined indicate that the region is fast becoming an all-round top expat destination," he added.

European expats staying put

Among the survey's other notable findings is that even though expats living in Europe are generally enduring a torrid time, as their currency's future remains in doubt and such countries as Spain, Greece, Italy and Cyprus fight to regain their equilibrium, most are “choosing to weather the storm”.

The resilience was noted among expatriates living in the UK and across Europe but was "most pronounced in Spain". Here, although more than nine in ten of those surveyed, or 92%, reported "dissatisfaction" with the current state of the country's economy – the highest level across all countries included in this year's survey, and more than double the global average of 37% – expats in Spain were also found by the Expat Explorer survey researchers to be the least likely to be looking to move away, with not a single expat surveyed actively looking to leave.

"Wider concerns, such as the current state of the economy, appear to have had little effect on their desire to continue living and working there," Blackburn said, of the expats living in Europe.

"While [they] are feeling the impact of the economic turbulence that has taken hold across much of the Eurozone, this year's findings show they have strong ties to their current country of residence."

Researchers for this year’s Expat Explorer  survey – the fifth to be conducted for HSBC, by the YouGov research organisation – interviewed some 5,339 expats from around 100 countries worldwide, making it “the largest-ever sample to date” of expats, HSBC said.

Other key findings of the survey:

  •  Four in five (80%) of expats in Singapore saw an increase in their disposable income since relocating to the city-state
  • The trend for increased earnings after relocating is also noted across other Asian countries, with expats in Hong Kong (79%), Malaysia (72%) and China (69%) saying they, too, benefitted from an increase in disposable income since moving to these countries
  •  Despite a generally strong outlook for the Gulf economies, many Middle Eastern expats say they only plan to stay for a short time

To read more about the Expat Explorer survey on HSBC's website, click here.

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