South Africa has ranked as the second worst place for safety and security out of the 64 countries covered by the latest Expat Insider report on the best places for expats to live.
Expat Insider is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive surveys on life abroad. For 2019’s report, 20,259 participants from around the globe shared their experiences of countries that they settled in, together representing 182 nationalities scattered across 187 countries or territories.
In the overall ranking of best places to live, South Africa placed 52nd out of 64 countries – the same position as in 2018 – though 68 countries were covered in that report.
The country’s best qualities are found in the family life index (with childcare options and costs associated with education and healthcare working in South Africa’s favour) and in the general cost of living.
However, the employment and quality of life indices drag down the country’s appeal – with little job security, a poor economy and lack of employment adding to safety and security issues.
Safety and security
In terms of safety and security, at 63rd position, South Africa was ranked only above Brazil, which took the top dishonour of being the least safe country covered in the report.
According to Expat Insider, while South Africa is still an appealing destination for expats because of its weather, host of activities and relatively low cost of living, it is dragged down significantly by the lack of safety and security.
Expats are especially concerned about their personal safety: South Africa hits rock bottom for this factor.
Among expat parents in South Africa, almost three out of five (57%) think their children are not safe, more than six times the global average (9%).
A British expat summed it up: “I miss the freedom of going anywhere at any time without worrying about my security.”
Respondents are also dissatisfied with the peacefulness (61st), with 36% rating this factor negatively (globally: 10%). Another big concern is the political instability, which worries more than half the expats (51%) — 34 percentage points above the worldwide average (17%).
These are the other take-aways from the report:
Digital life: Only 26% of expats think government services are easily available online (globally: 55%), and 27% struggle with getting access to a high-speed internet connection at home — twelve percentage points above the average of 15% worldwide. However, paying without cash is not an issue for over nine in ten (91% vs. 79% globally).
Medical care: While the quality of medical care seems to satisfy expats in South Africa — 75% are happy with this factor (vs. 65% worldwide) — close to two in five (37%) think healthcare isn’t affordable, eleven percentage points above the global average of 26%.
Transport: Regarding travel and transportation, South Africa ranks a poor 55th place out of 64 countries. This is mainly due to the inefficient transportation infrastructure, which more than half the respondents in South Africa (51%) view unfavourably, compared to 21% worldwide.
Economy: Almost six in 10 expats (59%) consider the state of the economy unsatisfying — 41 percentage points above the global average of 18%. A Belgian respondent points out that the “economic growth is weak”.
Work: 68% of expats are still satisfied with their working hours (62% globally), and 60% are happy with their work-life balance, which is on par with the global average. Career prospects perform below average, though: only 44% of expats in South Africa rate them positively, compared to 55% worldwide.
Cost of living: The cost of living in South Africa is rated positively by nearly three in five respondents (58%), eleven percentage points above the global average of 47%. However, South Africa has declined noticeably in the Personal Finance Index, falling from 38th place to 56th.
Education: Only 40% rate the availability of education for expat children favourably (globally: 53%) and 46% think it is expensive (vs. 35%). South Africa comes in 30th place out of 36 countries for the quality of education, which nearly one in four expat parents (23%) view negatively (vs. 16% globally).